On June 10, Federal District Judge John T. Copenhaver, in the case of EQT v. Wender, struck down a Fayette County ordinance which banned the disposal, use and storage of oil and natural gas waste within Fayette County. The ruling in favor of EQT declares that the local ordinance was preempted by state and federal law.
Judge Copenhaver cites the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protections ("DEP") authority under the West Virginia Oil and Gas Act, as well as the DEP's authority to regulate under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as specific pre-emptions to the Fayette County Ordinance. Specifically he writes that, “all authority to oversee gas and oil exploitation in West Virginia resides with the DEP.”
In the opinion, Judge Copenhaver also recognizes that oil and natural gas industry provides “highly valuable economic activity” in the state of West Virginia and the importance of having centralized regulatory certainty with the West Virginia DEP.
EQT also challenged the Fayette County ordinance that bans storage of natural gas wastewater at horizontal drilling pads. In this instance, Judge Copenhaver ruled that EQT did not have standing to challenge the ordinance as there are no active EQT drilling pads located within Fayette County. However, he did state that EQT’s claim that this ordinance effectively bans all horizontal drilling in Fayette County was, “accurate.”
For a more extensive analysis of this case and its potential impact, please contact Richard Gottlieb at (304) 345-2000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.