September 25, 2013

Sites sought for region's fracking residue

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, September 23, 2013
Posted on:

Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

With more drilling and fracking expected, oil and gas companies will need to find the best locations to safely inject more waste, said Neeraj Gupta, senior research leader for Battelle’s subsurface-resources group.

“That’s one of our objectives. Where is the injection capacity?” Gupta said.

Right now, it’s in Ohio, where more than 14.2 million barrels of fracking fluids and related waste from oil and gas wells were pumped into 190 disposal wells last year. That was a 12 percent increase over 2011.

Much of the waste — 8.16 million barrels last year — came from Pennsylvania, which has seven active disposal wells. West Virginia has 63 disposal wells.

The fracking process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter shale and free its trapped oil and gas. Some of the fluid bubbles back up, along with ancient saltwater that contains toxic metals and radium.

Environmental advocates say they worry that old, poorly maintained disposal wells will leak pollutants to groundwater.…

January 10, 2013

A decade later, massive civil case against oil companies ready to proceed

Source: New Hampshire Union Leader, January 8, 2013
By: Dave Solomon

George W. Bush was in his first term, Facebook didn’t exist and Barack Obama was still an Illinois state senator when the state of New Hampshire sued 22 oil and gas companies in late 2003, claiming their use of the gasoline additive MTBE caused groundwater contamination throughout the Granite State.

Then-Attorney General Peter Heed asked for a jury trial to determine if the companies should be required to pay for testing every public and private water supply, eliminate MTBE pollution where it is found, and monitor all water supplies for future contamination.

A decade later, the trial is about to get under way in Concord on Monday, but not in Superior Court as originally requested. The case has grown so large, involves so many attorneys, and is expected to take so much time, that it has been moved to Federal District Court in Concord, known as the Warren B. Rudman United States Courthouse.

“It’s simply a matter of space,” said William McGraw, chief clerk for Merrimack County Superior Court. “If we were to take a courtroom here and dedicate it to one single civil case for six months, we would not be able to get to the criminal cases, let alone the other civil cases.”

The state of New Hampshire vs. Amerada Hess, et. al., will be tried as a Superior Court case; only the courtroom location has changed. The defendants attempted over the years to have the case transferred to a federal jurisdiction, but failed. They also tried to restrict their liability to contamination of public, but not private, water supplies. They lost that case as well.…

June 16, 2011

Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. Secures $423 Million MTBE Settlement Against Oil Giants

Source:, May 8, 2008

Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. has secured a landmark MTBE settlement against some of the country’s biggest oil companies, which have agreed to pay $423 million in a suit involving the contamination of 153 public water systems nationally.

Of the settlement, Robert Gordon of Weitz & Luxenberg said, “This is an excellent settlement on behalf of our clients. The oil companies knew that MTBE would contaminate drinking water when they used it. The defendants who have settled have lived up to their responsibility by not only paying cash but by offering treatment of future contaminated wells for the next 30 years.”

The MTBE litigation, brought by Weitz & Luxenberg and Baron & Budd, addressed the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. The chemical is now banned in many states because it can affect the taste and odor of drinking water at extremely low levels

The lawsuit claimed that MTBE was a defective product that led to massive contamination and that the chemical was used by the defendant companies despite those entities being aware that it posed environmental and potential health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that MTBE caused cancer in lab rats exposed to high doses.

Filed on Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York, the settlement involves about a dozen oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Shell, BP, Chevron and Marathon. The original lawsuit, brought in 2003 by public water providers in 17 states, was subsequently consolidated into one federal case. As part of the agreement, the defendants will be required to fund a 30-year clean-up program for contaminated wells and surrounding areas.

Six oil corporations and refineries did not settle, including Exxon Mobil Corp and five smaller companies including chemical maker Lyondell Petrochemical Corp.

“We look forward to trying the case against Exxon Mobil,” said Gordon. “It is not right that the most profitable corporation in the history of the world can contaminate our drinking water knowingly, and then expect the taxpayers to clean up their mess.”…

March 2, 2011

Oil Drilling To Resume In the Gulf’s Deep Waters

Source: The New York Times, March 1, 2011
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The Interior Departmentsaid Monday that it had approved the first new deepwater drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP explosion and spill last spring, a milestone after a period of intense uncertainty for industry and a wholesale remaking of the nation’s system of offshore oil and gas regulation.

Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said that Noble Energy had been granted permission to resume drilling in 6,500 feet of water off the coast of Louisiana.

Work on the well was suspended, along with virtually all other drilling activity in water deeper than 5,000 feet, immediately after the Deepwater Horizon accident last April 20. The disaster killed 11 rig workers and spewed nearly five million barrels of oil into the ocean.

Still, there was no indication that drilling in the gulf would return any…