Kate Konschnik

Lecturer on Law

Fall 2017

Biography

Kate Konschnik is a Lecturer on Law and the founding Director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative of the Environmental Law Program, a policy shop providing real-world legal analysis of front-page energy and environmental issues. EPI seeks to advance discussion and propose solutions with its research, sharing findings in policy-relevant talks and products.  Kate and EPI attorneys and students have presented to leading state and national organizations including the National Research Council, the National Governors’ Association, the federal EPA, Groundwater Protection Council, the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative, and the United States Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

Prior to joining Harvard Law School, Kate was Chief Environmental Counsel to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and directed his staff on the Oversight Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. From 2002 to 2009, Kate also served as an environmental enforcement trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice. Kate holds a B.A. in political science from Tufts University and a J.D. cum laude from UC Hastings College of the Law. Kate has also studied at the University of Grenoble and the University of London.

Areas of Interest

Drew R. Michanowicz, Jonathan J. Buonocore, Sebastian T. Rowland, Katherine E. Konschnik, Shaun A. Goho & Aaron S. Bernstein, A National Assessment of Underground Natural Gas Storage: Identifying Wells with Designs Likely Vulnerable to a Single-Point-of-Failure, 12 Envtl. Res. Letters 064004 (2017).
Categories:
Environmental Law
Sub-Categories:
Climate Change
,
Oil, Gas, & Mineral Law
Type: Article
Abstract
The leak of processed natural gas (PNG) from October 2015 to February 2016 from the Aliso Canyon storage facility, near Los Angeles, California, was the largest single accidental release of greenhouse gases in US history. The Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety and California regulators recently recommended operators phase out single-point-of-failure (SPF) well designs. Here, we develop a national dataset of UGS well activity in the continental US to assess regulatory data availability and uncertainty, and to assess the prevalence of certain well design deficiencies including single-point-of-failure designs. We identified 14 138 active UGS wells associated with 317 active UGS facilities in 29 states using regulatory and company data. State-level wellbore datasets contained numerous reporting inconsistencies that limited data concatenation. We identified 2715 active UGS wells across 160 facilities that, like the failed well at Aliso Canyon, predated the storage facility, and therefore were not originally designed for gas storage. The majority (88%) of these repurposed wells are located in OH, MI, PA, NY, and WV. Repurposed wells have a median age of 74 years, and the 2694 repurposed wells constructed prior to 1979 are particularly likely to exhibit design-related deficiencies. An estimated 210 active repurposed wells were constructed before 1917—before cement zonal isolation methods were utilized. These wells are located in OH, PA, NY, and WV and represent the highest priority related to potential design deficiencies that could lead to containment loss. This national baseline assessment identifies regulatory data uncertainties, highlights a potentially widespread vulnerability of the natural gas supply chain, and can aid in prioritization and oversight for high-risk wells and facilities.
Lauren A. Patterson, Katherine E. Konschnik, Hannah Wiseman, Joseph Fargione, Kelly O. Maloney, Joseph Kiesecker, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Sally Entrekin, Anne Trainor & James E. Saiers, Unconventional Oil and Gas Spills: Risks, Mitigation Priorities, and State Reporting Requirements, 51 Envtl. Sci. Tech. 2563 (2017).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Oil, Gas, & Mineral Law
,
State & Local Government
,
Administrative Law & Agencies
Type: Article
Abstract
Rapid growth in unconventional oil and gas (UOG) has produced jobs, revenue, and energy, but also concerns over spills and environmental risks. We assessed spill data from 2005 to 2014 at 31 481 UOG wells in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. We found 2–16% of wells reported a spill each year. Median spill volumes ranged from 0.5 m3 in Pennsylvania to 4.9 m3 in New Mexico; the largest spills exceeded 100 m3. Seventy-five to 94% of spills occurred within the first three years of well life when wells were drilled, completed, and had their largest production volumes. Across all four states, 50% of spills were related to storage and moving fluids via flowlines. Reporting rates varied by state, affecting spill rates and requiring extensive time and effort getting data into a usable format. Enhanced and standardized regulatory requirements for reporting spills could improve the accuracy and speed of analyses to identify and prevent spill risks and mitigate potential environmental damage. Transparency for data sharing and analysis will be increasingly important as UOG development expands. We designed an interactive spills data visualization tool (http://snappartnership.net/groups/hydraulic-fracturing/webapp/spills.html) to illustrate the value of having standardized, public data.
Kelly O. Maloney, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Lauren A. Patterson, Jean-Philippe Nicot, Sally A. Entrekin, Joseph E. Fargione, Joseph M. Kiesecker, Kate E. Konschnik & Joseph N. Ryan, Unconventional Oil and Gas Spills: Materials, Volumes, and Risks to Surface Waters in Four States of the U.S., 581-582 Sci. of the Total Env't 369 (2017).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Oil, Gas, & Mineral Law
,
State & Local Government
Type: Article
Abstract
Extraction of oil and gas from unconventional sources, such as shale, has dramatically increased over the past ten years, raising the potential for spills or releases of chemicals, waste materials, and oil and gas. We analyzed spill data associated with unconventional wells from Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2014, where we defined unconventional wells as horizontally drilled into an unconventional formation. We identified materials spilled by state and for each material we summarized frequency, volumes and spill rates. We evaluated the environmental risk of spills by calculating distance to the nearest stream and compared these distances to existing setback regulations. Finally, we summarized relative importance to drinking water in watersheds where spills occurred. Across all four states, we identified 21,300 unconventional wells and 6622 reported spills. The number of horizontal well bores increased sharply beginning in the late 2000s; spill rates also increased for all states except PA where the rate initially increased, reached a maximum in 2009 and then decreased. Wastewater, crude oil, drilling waste, and hydraulic fracturing fluid were the materials most often spilled; spilled volumes of these materials largely ranged from 100 to 10,000 L. Across all states, the average distance of spills to a stream was highest in New Mexico (1379 m), followed by Colorado (747 m), North Dakota (598 m) and then Pennsylvania (268 m), and 7.0, 13.3, and 20.4% of spills occurred within existing surface water setback regulations of 30.5, 61.0, and 91.4 m, respectively. Pennsylvania spills occurred in watersheds with a higher relative importance to drinking water than the other three states. Results from this study can inform risk assessments by providing improved input parameters on volume and rates of materials spilled, and guide regulations and the management policy of spills.
Katherine E. Konschnik, Regulating Stability: State Compensation Funds for Induced Seismicity, 29 Geo. Int’l Envtl. L. Rev. 227 (2017).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Land Use
,
Disaster Law
,
Administrative Law & Agencies
,
State & Local Government
Type: Article
Abstract
Earthquakes have increased in number and geographic distribution in the United States since 2009. In many cases, they appear tied to hydraulic fracturing or the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production. Tectonic instability also shakes the public’s trust in Oklahoma and other oil and natural-gas producing states. A better policy framework must evolve to meet this challenge. Existing risk management tools create uncertainly for all actors, and the legal system fails to promptly and adequately compensate earthquake victims. This Article therefore advocates for the creation of state induced seismicity compensation funds, to ensure recovery of damages for injuries or lost property, and to contain the looming liability and insurance coverage risks the industry faces. Such a tool would bring predictability and stability to this issue. In addition, a carefully designed fund could facilitate research into the drivers of induced seismicity and mitigate the risk going forward. The Article describes ten existing compensation programs, and evaluates the applicability of their design elements to a Model State Induced Seismicity Fund.
Jonas Monast, Kate Konschnik, Ari Peskoe, Sarah Adair & Christina Reichert, Illuminating the Energy Policy Agenda: Electricity Sector Issues Facing the Next Administration (Duke Univ. White Paper NI R 16-01, Oct. 2016).
Categories:
Environmental Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Energy & Utilities Law
,
Administrative Law & Agencies
,
Executive Office
Type: Other
Abstract
The next president will take office during a period of rapid market and regulatory change for the U.S. electricity sector. Due to statutory deadlines, pending lawsuits, and agency rulemakings—if not by choice—the next president will tackle energy policy. To prepare policy makers for what promises to be a dynamic period in electricity law and policy, this report provides an overview of each of six key areas of federal policy and, for each area, identifies the decision points—in time or circumstances—that will force the next administration to make choices that shape the future of the grid. For each decision point, the report explores the next president’s options and the federal agencies and authorities that he or she could deploy.
Jody Freeman & Kate Konschnik, A Climate Plan Businesses Can Like, N.Y. Times, Aug. 4, 2015, at A23.
Categories:
Environmental Law
Sub-Categories:
Climate Change
Type: News
Jody Freeman & Kate Konschnik, U.S. Climate Change Law and Policy: Possible Paths Forward, in Global Climate Change and U.S. Law 795 (Jody Freeman & Michael B. Gerrard eds., A.B.A. 2nd ed. 2014).
Categories:
Environmental Law
Sub-Categories:
Climate Change
Type: Book
Abstract
This comprehensive, current examination of U.S. law as it relates to global climate change begins with a summary of the factual and scientific background of climate change based on governmental statistics and other official sources.

Education History

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