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Environment

 

Don’t say a word.  “Chris and Stephanie Hallowich were sure drilling for natural gas near their Pennsylvania home was to blame for the headaches, burning eyes and sore throats they suffered after the work began”.

“The companies insisted hydraulic fracturing…wasn’t the cause. Nevertheless, in 2011, a year after the family sued, Range Resources Corp (RRC). and two other companies agreed to a $750,000 settlement. In order to collect, the Hallowiches promised not to tell anyone, according to court filings”.

“… In cases from Wyoming to Arkansas, Pennsylvania to Texas, drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who say hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, ruined their water, according to a review by Bloomberg News of hundreds of regulatory and legal filings. In most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet”.
“The strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the news media and health researchers, and makes it difficult to challenge the industry’s claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water”.

Excerpted from: Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements, By Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Mark Drajem, June 06, 2013.


Hidden in Plain Sight. “For a decade, the people of Libby have longed for the day when they will be rid of the asbestos that turned their town into the deadliest Superfund site in America.”

“Now they are being forced to live through the agony all over again, thanks to two giant piles of bark and wood chips on the edge of town. An Associated Press investigation found that the federal government has known for at least three years that the wood piles were contaminated with an unknown level of asbestos, even as Libby residents hauled truckload after truckload of the material away from the site and placed it in yards, in city parks, outside schools and at the local cemetery.”

“Regulators still do not know what effect the material could have on public health…"

"The source of Libby's asbestos was a W.R. Grace vermiculite mine that at its peak produced 2 million tons of ore annually…only for authorities to later discover the ore was loaded with deadly asbestos."
Excerpted from: AP IMPACT: New danger found in asbestos town, by MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press, 7-5-11


Care for a little lemon, lime or methane in your water? “The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency order after it determined that a natural gas company's operations caused or contributed to the contamination of drinking water in Parker County.”

“It's the first confirmed case of its kind in the Barnett Shale.  …the EPA issued an emergency order to Range Resources…”

“The order alleges that natural gas from a Range Resources well…contaminated two private drinking water wells…"

The company has been ordered to supply the families with clean drinking water, as well as monitors inside their homes to assess methane levels.”

…Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carillo labeled the EPA's action as, “premature."
Excerpted from:  EPA acts after water contaminated by drilling by CHRIS HAWES, WFAA – DFW 12-7-10


Sir, your self-assurance is not reassuring.  “A shareholder proposal calling for Exxon Mobil to prepare a report regarding the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a technique widely used in completing natural gas wells, received 26.3 percent of shareholder votes.  Company management opposed the proposal, saying the practice is safe, despite concerns by environmental groups that it can potentially cause groundwater contamination…”

"Most of what's in those frack fluids are in many household products," Tillerson [Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO] said. "There's not anything in there that's particularly exotic."
Excerpted from: Exxon CEO defends offshore drilling, McClatchy 5-27-10


A fairy tale:  Once upon a time a walrus, polar bear & penguin lived in the Gulf of Mexico…
“We would not have drilled the well the way they did,” said Rex W. Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil.”

“It certainly appears that not all the standards that we would recommend or that we would employ were in place,” said John S. Watson chairman of Chevron.”

“It’s not a well that we would have drilled in that mechanical setup,” said Marvin E. Odum, president of Shell.”

“After weaving for a bit, Mr. McKay [BP] said meekly: “We are sorry for everything the Gulf Coast is going through. We are sorry for that and for the spill.”

Although most of the Congressional fire was aimed at BP…the other executives came under criticism…particularly for the response plans that they prepared for a major spill in the gulf. The five companies submitted virtually identical plans to government regulators and to the committee. The 500-page document…refers to measures to protect walruses and gives a phone number for a marine biologist who died five years ago.
Excerpted from: Oil Executives Break Ranks in Testimony By JOHN M. BRODER, New York Times 6-16-10


Notoriously severe actualities.  “Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute…will tell the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee….that a proposed increase in the limits for environmental liability from an oil spill….is beyond the capacity of the insurance industry.”

“Collectively, the impact could be less drilling…. These rigs could be relocated to some other part of the world where operating costs are lower.”
“He said that “raising the limit to $10 billion will significantly increase the demand for such coverage, and increase exponentially the risk and uncertainty…”

“The reason, Mr. Hartwig said, is that “very low probability but extreme severity events are notoriously difficult for insurers to underwrite.”
Excerpted from: Liability Cap Hike Could Drive Drillers Out of U.S. Waters By ARTHUR D. POSTAL National Underwriter - Property & Casualty, June 8, 2010


Sue Baby Sue. “Sessions [Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama], probably the Senate's most ardent supporter of tort reform, found himself extolling the virtues of litigation -- against BP. "They're not limited in liability on damage, so if you've suffered a damage, they are the responsible party," said Sessions, sounding very much like the trial lawyers he usually maligns."

…"They're not too big to fail," Sessions said. "If they can't pay and they've given it everything they've got, then they should cease to exist."
Excerpted from: Dana Milbank: Through oil-fouled water, big government looks better and better, Washington Post 5-4-2010


Offshore fireball. “Even before the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, government investigators had cited myriad potential safety violations involving fires aboard other offshore drilling rigs and platforms that resulted in more than 20 injuries and two deaths since 2007, records and statistics show.”

“Mark Tranfield, a consultant…who provides inspections and training for offshore companies worldwide, said he believes lax rules and less coordinated enforcement in the Gulf of Mexico create a more potentially dangerous…”

European countries established tougher safety rules and mandatory training…when the Piper Alfa production platform blew up in the North Sea, killing 167, Tranfield and others said.
“You have all these regulations in the rest of the world, and in the United States, there's nothing,” Tranfield said.”
Excerpted from: Many potential fire violations found offshore, By LISE OLSEN Houston Chronicle, 4-27-2010


Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. "A legal loophole could be letting gas drillers inject fluids with high levels of benzene into the ground in gas-rich regions such as North Texas' Barnett Shale, a study by an environmental group finds."

"Although Congress regulated the use of fluids containing diesel fuel to extract gas from the ground, many other petroleum distillates that are not restricted have far higher benzene levels and pose a greater risk to people, the report [Drilling Around the Law] by the Environmental Working Group said."

"Companies are basically doing an end run around the law," said Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel for the Environmental Working Group..."

"...a spokeswoman for the Texas Railroad Commission, said in an e-mail that the agency does not ask drilling companies operating in Texas what is in the fluids they inject into the ground..."

Excerpted from: Loophole lets gas drillers infect chemical; Texas official says water untainted By Randy Lee Loftis, Dallas Morning News 1-20-2010.


Junk Science or Junk Lawsuit? "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is considering a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency challenging EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gases, according to chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue."

"Asked at a news conference today whether the chamber would sue EPA to roll back its recent decision that greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger public health and the environment, Donohue said, "Maybe."
Excerpted from: Chamber of Commerce Considering EPA Lawsuit, by Kenneth T. Walsh, US News & World Report, 1-12-2010


Pushing the limit. "In one industrial accident alone, Total Petrochemical's sprawling oil
refinery in southeast Texas sprayed tons of sulfuric acid and carbon monoxide into the sky".

"The French company's 62-year-old facility also has released toxic substances such as cancer-causing benzene, regularly surpassed allowable pollution limits and failed to report dozens of emissions - or even fully identify what or how much was released."
 
"Such incidents helped make Total the most heavily fined polluter in Texas in fiscal 2009, according to a year-end report summarizing how companies were punished in the state that produces the most industrial pollution."

Excerpted from: French refiner Total tops Texas' list of fines for pollution by John McFarland, The Associated Press, Dallas Morning News 12-9-09


Polluters, Go Sit in the Corner. "Five years after a state auditor determined that the state's main environmental regulatory and permitting office did little to penalize polluters, critics say shortcomings remain in making violators pay."

"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality still caps penalties on polluters at $10,000 for each violation per day, regardless of its severity. And it still hasn't decided whether a history of violations should warrant harsher penalties."

"By its own reckoning, the commission conceives of the penalties it levies against polluters as a kind of schoolmarmish scold."

Excerpted from: Do businesses pay for pollution? By Asher Price, Austin American Statesman, January 18, 2009


ICK - what's that smell? "The state has ordered two Lyondell Chemical Co. subsidiaries to pay a total of $6.5 million in pollution fines, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Monday."

"Equistar Chemicals LP and Millenium Petrochemicals were charged in December 2005 after a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigation revealed that seven Lyondell facilities released harmful emissions, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide over an extended period of time."

"The investigation found that the plants in La Porte, Channelview and Chocolate Bayou either ignored long-term pollutant releases or did very little to remedy chronic problems over time." Excerpted from: Pair of Texas firms hit with $6.5 million in pollution fines, Austin American Statesman (Associated Press), August 25, 2006


What else lies beneath? "...the State Department of Health plunged (Galveston) bay fishermen into a new reality: Human action has tainted the bay's biology...The warning shows how hard it can be to repair environmental damage, years after the practices that caused it were stopped.

According to an unprecedented alert from the Texas Department of State Health Services, speckled trout and catfish from any part of Galveston Bay are deeply contaminated with two toxic compounds...the agency found that both fish had high levels of PCBs and dioxins."

"The contaminant levels in those two species were so pervasive and dangerous that healthy adults should not eat more than eight ounces of either fish per month."
 
"PCBs and dioxins were banned in this country decades ago... the compounds tripped off environmental alarms because they didn't degrade.

A generation later, that alarm is justified. It will be years before these compounds disappear from the bay and its wildlife, said Elena Craft, a toxicologist from the Environmental Defense Fund."

"Communing with nature, unfortunately, now requires constant awareness of civilization." Excerpted from: Editorial - Hold the Line, Heedless practices of Texas industry now poisoning sport fishing industry, Houston Chronicle 7/9/08


Just Beneath the Surface... Many Texans may not realize that the state's Railroad Commission is charged with regulating the safety of natural gas and oil pipelines. Critics say the commission often acts as though it doesn't realize it, either.

Consumer advocates have questioned the commission's effectiveness and its ties to the industry it oversees in the wake of natural gas explosions that have killed at least nine North Texas residents and injured more in the last decade.

Now, documents produced as part of a lawsuit in an explosion last October that killed an elderly Wylie couple show that a top commission staffer changed an investigator's report, which had the effect of steering blame away from an underground pipe coupling that critics say should never have been used in Texas' notoriously shifting soil.

The commission has considered ordering the couplings' replacement, but chose to study them first. They remain in use under 100,000 North Texas homes.
Excerpted from: State official says report's shift away from coupling as factor is based on evidence, not influence, Dallas Morning News, Oct 21, 2007. (Note: WFAA-TV reporter Brett Shipp and producer Mark Smith examined the possible hazards posed by outdated natural gas couplings & explored why regulators dropped a proposal to require replacement of the couplings. This article is based largely on WFAA's research.)