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Will Fracking Become the Next Mass Tort?
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

Drilling in the Marcellus Shale to release natural oil and gas, also known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for short, has been controversial for its potential environmental impact. Those concerns are counterbalanced by the need for natural gas and the financial benefits to those who are selling rights to drill under their land, many of whom are farmers facing difficult financial times. Opponents of fracking have presented some concerns about potential health effects from fracking and its byproducts. Whether those health concerns are legitimate and who would be responsible for adverse health effects is of interest to the plaintiffs bar. Full Text


The Evolution of DSIC for Pa. Natural Gas Utilities
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

On February 14, 2012, Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 11 of 2012 into law. Act 11 opened up Pennsylvania's distribution system improvement charge (DSIC) to electric and natural gas utilities. The DSIC is intended to provide greater flexibility in ratemaking and spur investment in infrastructure by enabling utilities to recover certain infrastructure costs from customers. Full Text


Taxing the Marcellus Shale
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

Pennsylvania imposes an impact fee on energy companies for each natural gas-producing well they drill in the state. The impact fee was enacted in response to the large concentration of natural gas producers flocking into the Marcellus Shale region. However, in the commotion of ramping up drilling operations and focusing on the impact fee, companies may fail to fully consider the effects of Pennsylvania's sales, corporate net income and franchise taxes on their Marcellus operations. Full Text


Dormant Oil and Gas Rights and the Action to Quiet Title
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

The economic viability of extracting oil and natural gas from unconventional shale formations has resulted in a significant direct financial benefit to thousands of landowners in Pennsylvania. It has focused attention on the importance — and in some cases the difficulty — of identifying the parties who possess the ability to lease the rights to develop these resources when ownership of the oil or gas interests is not easily determined. In many cases, the unknown status of the subsurface interest owners results from the passage of many decades after the severance of all or part of the oil and gas estate by a previous owner in the chain of title. Increasingly, Pennsylvania lawyers have turned to the action to quiet title as a means to clear legal impediments from the road to development. Full Text


Shale Gives Rise to Closer Look at Mechanic's Lien Laws
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

Consider that in order to secure payment, a contractor may file a mechanic's lien on real property on which it performed work. The lien places an encumbrance against the owner's real property for the unpaid balance of the contractor's work. When Thomas Jefferson, then as secretary of State under George Washington, proposed this nation's first mechanic's lien law in 1791, he almost certainly did not contemplate a lien being filed against the types of structures commonly built today, particularly those arising out of shale play development. As many of the same companies operate in the multistate shale play, the following perspective summarizes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio mechanic's lien laws as they apply to shale play-related construction activities, and references a couple of actual cases that illustrate some of the novel construction and legal issues that may arise Full Text


The 'Low-Hanging Fruit' of Energy-Efficient Buildings
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

Making buildings more energy efficient is often described as "low-hanging fruit" for achieving dramatic energy savings and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. While many people appreciate the complexity of building new renewable energy projects or introducing electric or natural gas-powered vehicles, the building sector is widely perceived as rife with the potential to reduce energy consumption through the application of available, existing technologies but somehow unable to fully realize this potential to date. Full Text


Hydraulic Fracturing: Coming to a Town Near You?
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013

The fate of Pennsylvania's controversial zoning provisions of Act 13, the 2012 amendment to the Oil and Gas Act, will soon be decided by the Supreme Court in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. At stake are provisions that would require municipalities to eliminate most restrictions on unconventional gas well development from local zoning ordinances. As one might expect from a state that has become a leader in modern oil and gas development, the provisions at issue expressly seek to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to local control of oil and gas development. This effort at uniformity has been met with stiff opposition from municipalities that believe Act 13 goes too far, usurping a local government's traditional role of regulating land use within its borders for the health and safety of its residents. So far, the plaintiff municipalities have had the better of the argument, challenging Act 13 on constitutional grounds, in contrast to a nationwide trend that has seen state courts relying on state/local conflict pre-emption doctrine to limit local efforts to regulate oil and gas development. Full Text