People living along the proposed route of a natural gas pipeline through Michigan have been bombarding federal regulators with letters opposing the project planned by ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC.
In the face of mounting opposition in one county, ET Rover, a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, quietly revised its plan and rerouted the pipeline north though two counties that were surprised to suddenly be dealing with the project.
The letter-writing campaign was directed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency that will decide the project's fate. FERC is the lead agency responsible for conducting environmental reviews of proposed interstate pipelines, and as part of the process it allows time for the public to weigh in with comments.
People in Michigan's Oakland County were ready this time. When a Texas-based company announced plans for a natural gas pipeline that would bisect the county, township boards in Oakland County passed resolutions against it. Rallies stirred locals to action. Federal regulators were bombarded with letters against the project.
With resistance gaining momentum, ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, quietly reversed its plans. Now people in neighboring Genesee and Lapeer counties—the new path of the pipeline—are reeling, and asking the winners for help.
Two months after ET Rover revealed maps showing that its pipeline would cut across pubic land and through backyards in Oakland County—and only a few weeks after the first opposition appeared–ET Rover chose an alternative route north that touches only a tiny slice of Oakland County.
"We weren't going to let this happen again," said Kathy Thurman, the Brandon Township supervisor who heard from community members that they'd had enough of the turmoil caused by earlier pipeline projects. Brandon Township is in Oakland County.
The stage has been set for an appeal of a high profile verdict against a Texas oil and gas company after a judge refused to grant a new trial in the case of a family sickened by noxious air emissions.
Judge Mark Greenberg has denied a motion by Aruba Petroleum for a new trial, letting stand the $2.9 million jury award to Lisa and Bob Parr who sued the company after gas and oil wells surrounded their once rural ranch south of Dallas.
Greenberg's one sentence order didn't offer a reason for his decision. It simply said: "Aruba Petroleum's motion for new trial is ... denied."
Attorney Tomas Ramirez is confident he'll win an appeal in the case of a Karnes County, Texas family who sued two oil companies claiming their lives had been ruined by toxic emissions.
But even a win on appeal could take up to two years, and Ramirez thinks the delay could discourage other people from filing similar claims.
The difficulty is that Texas has a two-year statute of limitations, which means people have just two years from the time they become aware of a problem until the time they file a lawsuit. The Eagle Ford Shale boom in Karnes County began in 2012, bringing it with it thousands of oil and gas wells and the kinds of emissions that Mike and Myra Cerny said made them sick.
For people in the Eagle Ford Shale, where the Cernys live, that means time is ticking to near zero, said Thomas McGarity, a University of Texas law school professor who specializes in environmental and administrative law.
A commercial facility that disposes of oil and gas waste in Eastern Utah has been fined $50,000 for releasing excessive amounts of benzene and other volatile organic compounds without a state air emissions permit.
Rusty Ruby, compliance manager for Utah's Division of Air Quality Compliance, said the agency doesn't have "a lot of experience" when it comes to regulating waste pits because so little is known about them, a problem common in other states where hydraulic fracturing is generating vast quantities of contaminated waste water.
"It's not like a smokestack that you can get a pretty good idea of what's coming out," Ruby said.
In this case, the violation became clear when Utah officials discovered that Danish Flats Environmental Services had nearly doubled the size of its operation without obtaining an emissions permit. Ruby said the Colorado-based firm's unpermitted operation was exceeding emissions regulations under the federal Clean Air Act and state law.
12:30 PM ET on 8/28/204: This story has been updated with information from the EPA.
Pipeline giant Enbridge, Inc. has almost finished cleaning up its 2010 spill that sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy crude oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River.
Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must decide how much it will fine Enbridge for causing one of the biggest inland oil spills in U.S. history.
Enbridge spokesman Larry Springer declined to speculate on the amount of the fine. But according to the company's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Enbridge expects it will be at least $22 million.
"Discussions are ongoing with the relevant government agencies, and it is premature to discuss negotiations at this time," Springer said.
A Texas judge has dismissed a million dollar lawsuit filed by a Karnes County, Texas, family who say their lives have been ruined by noxious emissions from oil and gas facilities near their home.
District Judge Stella Saxon apparently accepted the argument made by Marathon Oil Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) that Mike and Myra Cerny didn't have enough medical and scientific evidence to prove to a jury that they have been sickened by oil field emissions.
Marathon applauded the ruling, while the Cernys' attorney said he'll file an appeal. Legal experts say the dismissal could have a chilling effect on others who may be considering legal action against the oil and gas industry.
The dismissal in Karnes County stands in stark contrast to a case in Dallas County earlier this year in which a jury awarded $2.9 million to a family who also claimed to be sickened by emissions. That two similar cases could have such different outcomes highlights vagaries of both the justice and regulatory system in Texas, where the oil and gas industry is widely praised and supported.
Two major oil companies have asked a Texas judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit that could draw new attention to the toxic air emissions from oil and gas production.
The lawsuit was filed last year by Mike and Myra Cerny, who say they can't enjoy the use of their home because of the benzene, toluene and other toxic chemicals released from nearby facilities owned by Marathon and Plains Exploration & Production (PXP). The Cernys are using the same argument that helped another Texas family, Bob and and Lisa Parr, win a groundbreaking, $2.9 million judgment against Aruba Petroleum last April: That the emissions created a nuisance that made their lives unbearable.
Air emissions are increasingly recognized as a problem in drilling areas throughout United States, with residents complaining of coughing, headaches, nosebleeds, rashes and dizziness. But lawsuits linking gas and oil production to health problems have been considered almost unwinnable, because few scientific studies have been done on how the industry’s emissions might affect human health.
Jane Barrett, director of the University of Maryland's Environmental Law Clinic, said that if the Parrs and Cerneys succeed, their cases could change the assumption that ordinary people can't stand up to the industry.
Barrett compared the two Texas cases with early lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry, which was once seen as immune to charges that it was responsible for the harmful effects of cigarettes.
Retired first grade teacher Beth Baker-Knuttila has so much she wants to tell the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission about why adding an oil pipeline near her beloved Portage Lake isn't a good idea.
On Thursday she'll have just three minutes to try to convince the PUC to reject a proposed Enbridge, Inc. pipeline that would cut across 144 lakes, streams and rivers, and skirt the shores of the Park Rapids lake that has been her home for 35 years.
The 616–mile Sandpiper pipeline is one of the first major pipelines designed to carry crude oil out of the booming Bakken Shale region of North Dakota.
It will begin in the northwest corner of North Dakota and cross into Minnesota then pass 299 miles through the heart of the state to Superior, Wisc. Once running, it could carry nearly 10 million gallons of crude oil a day—an estimated 20 percent of the oil produced in the Bakken—to refineries in the Midwest and East and Canada.
Virginia Palacios wants to empower the people of south Texas. She and her organization, the Austin office of the Environmental Defense Fund, want them to know they can make a difference in the face of the oil and gas boom that’s sweeping the Eagle Ford region.
In partnership with the Rio Grande International Study Center, Palacios has helped develop a series of workshops in five heavily impacted counties in the Eagle Ford, a 400-mile-long swath of oil and gas development that reaches from northeast Texas to the U.S.-Mexico border. The goal is to let residents know what resources are available if they believe they are being sickened by toxic emissions, or their water is becoming tainted or their wells are being drained.
People accustomed to a quiet rural lifestyle have found themselves in the middle of a bewildering hubbub of 18-wheel oil trucks, heavy equipment, day and night drilling, smoky flares and leaking emissions. Since 2008, more than 7,000 wells have been sunk and another 5,500 have been approved, making the Eagle Ford one of America’s most active drilling areas.