November 12, 2013

Colorado Fracking Fight Looms

Source: Dow Jones News Service, November 7, 2013
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Energy companies in Colorado are girding for a statewide battle over fracking next year after voters in three communities passed bans on hydraulic fracturing and a fourth town voted to continue to allow the practice by just a handful of votes.

Despite heavy spending by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, Boulder and Fort Collins passed five-year moratoriums Tuesday, and voters in Lafayette strongly favored an outright ban. All three are in north-central Colorado near the Niobrara Shale oil field, where production has been rising rapidly.

In nearby Broomfield, which has experienced more drilling than the other towns, voters defeated a moratorium by 13 votes out of 20,519. The tally remains unofficial and, if certified, would trigger a recount.

The vote in Broomfield, a suburban community north of Denver, was watched most closely because its residents have the most experience with the pros and cons of drilling, and because its politics mirror Colorado’s.

The antifracking effort, spearheaded by Frack Free Colorado, was supported by Washington, D.C., nonprofits Clean Water Action and Food & Water Watch. Patagonia Inc. also gave a grant to Frack Free Colorado. Petitions to get the issue on ballots were gathered by local organizers, some of them with affiliations to these environmental groups.…

September 26, 2013

Floods Exacerbate Damage of Fracking in Colorado

Source: Targeted News Service, September 24, 2013
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As floodwaters continue to rage across the Front Range, our first thoughts are with the victims and their families. And to add insult to injury, Coloradans now have reason to be concerned about their water quality. Oil and gas industry infrastructure in the region has been severely compromised. Toxic wastewater tanks have been spotted floating in the floodwaters, pipelines are broken and sagging, and the state is now tracking several oil and gas spills.

“We were concerned about fracking before the flooding,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate with Environment Colorado. “But now, oil and gas spilling into the floodwaters, contaminating drinking water, is an added exclamation point to the long list of dangers that fracking has brought to Colorado.”

The largest spill occurred on Wednesday when about 5,225 gallons of crude oil flowed into the South Platte River near Milliken. Nearly 2 million residents of Denver rely on the South Platte for their drinking water and just over 70 percent of Coloradans rely on the South Platte as their main water source.

“Toxic chemicals, such as cancer-causing benzene, have mixed with floodwaters posing a severe public health hazard,” said Wilson. “While we do not know the full extent of the contamination, we know that thousands of Coloradans’ drinking water could be affected.”

The oil and gas industry is currently exempt from some key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and our nation’s hazardous waste law. The thousands of gallons of drilling waste mixing with floodwaters reinforces the need to close these toxic loopholes that leave communities vulnerable to water contamination.

Environment Colorado will be releasing a report Oct. 3, entitled “Fracking by the Numbers,” which will quantify key measures of fracking threats to our environment and health.


September 3, 2013

MarkWest settles federal air pollution charges at Javelina plant

Source: Global Data Point, August 31, 2013
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MarkWest Energy Partners LP agreed to invest $650,000 to reduce flaring events at its Javelina gas processing plant in Corpus Christi, Tex., as part of a settlement of charges it violated the federal Clean Air Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced. The consent decree also requires the Denver gas midstream master limited partnership improve its community relations by installing a 24-hr hotline to answer questions about flaring events, and pay a $97,500 fine within 30 days, EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas said on Aug. 29. The settlement addresses violations EPA inspectors found at the plant from Sept. 1, 2012, to Jan. 30, 2013, it indicated. The Javelina plant processes and fractionates off-gas from six local refineries, according to information at MarkWest’s web site.


August 14, 2013

Pipeline driller still polluting

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, August 12, 2013
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A company that faces state sanctions and fines for pipeline-construction spills in eastern Ohio continues to foul streams and wetlands.

Scott Nally, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, told Denver-based MarkWest Energy in a March 8 letter that the size and repeated nature of four spills dating to September were “unacceptable.”

As the EPA and the company negotiate penalties, agency reports show that MarkWest and its contractors have had 13 additional spills in Belmont, Harrison, Guernsey, Monroe and Noble counties, including a 1,200-gallon slurry spill that polluted a Monroe County wetland in July.

MarkWest attorney Chris Jones said the most-recent spills are smaller and less severe than those reported in 2012.

Much of MarkWest’s problem stems from drilling in areas that were once strip-mined for coal, Jones said. Soils and rocks there often are too loosely packed to contain the slurry.

“If there is any indication of a void in the ground, we stop drilling and address it,” said Jones, a former Ohio EPA director.

EPA spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said the agency continues to investigate the spills.

Teresa Mills, fracking coordinator for the Buckeye Forest Council, an environmental advocacy group, said the state should be tougher on the company.

“They should just totally make (MarkWest) stop until they figure out how to do it properly,” Mills said.…

May 20, 2013

Proposed fracking legislation expected to unleash Southern Illinois oil boom

Source:, May 15, 2013
By: Len Wells

A compromise has been reached in the Illinois legislature on a bill that would regulate the practice of high volume, high pressure hydraulic fracturing in Illinois. If approved, proponents believe an oil boom will be unleashed in Southern Illinois as producers target the oil-rich New Albany Shale formation.

The House bill, drafted with the help of industry and some environmental groups, was introduced in February with strong bipartisan support. However, the bill became stalled over an amendment requiring energy companies to hire Illinois-licensed water well drillers, which industry officials claimed was unnecessary for oil and gas drilling.

Under a compromise reached Tuesday, the water well component of the bill was removed, and instead, a provision was added that would give oil producers a break on severance, or “extraction” taxes if more than half of their workers were hired from Illinois and paid prevailing wages.

Some out-of-state drilling activity has started already in Southern Illinois. Near Johnsonville, Ill., in northern Wayne County, SM Energy of Denver, Colo., has started an exploratory well. Les Wilson Drilling Company, Inc., of Carmi, Ill. is the contractor on the project.

Strata-X, another Denver, Colorado-based company is poised to launch a major drilling project called the “Vail Project.” Strata-X had already acquired a 100 percent working interest in 47,850 gross acres of oil and gas exploration rights in two Southern Illinois counties. The company plans to target a dolomitic reservoir that is located beneath the New Albany Shale formation.…

May 7, 2013

When does an "occurrence" occur?

Source:, April 29, 2013
By: Jerome H. Sturhahn, Sherman & Howard LLC

Two federal courts in Denver recently addressed a fundamental question that exists in almost every construction defect case – when did the property damage that gives rise to liability, and the insurer’s obligation, occur? The answer to the question of when the damage occurred helps determine which policy is triggered and whether the insurer has a coverage obligation. The Courts’ resolution of this question in two different cases offers encouraging news for insureds.

The insurer in Bituminous v. Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. had argued that it had no obligation to defend a contractor from the HOA’s property damage allegations because its policy terminated before the project achieved completion and before the HOA’s formation. The Court rejected the HOA’s date of formation as determinative of when the property damage occurred. Instead, the Court looked to the specific allegations of property damage in the complaint. Based on the allegation that damage occurred as soon as “areas” of the project “were first put to their intended use,” the Court determined that the HOA had alleged property damage to various project areas that began before the project’s final completion. Although not expressly alleged, this could include the period prior to the termination of the insurer’s policy. Based on Colorado law that created a duty to defend anytime the allegations “could” give rise to covered liability, the Court found the insurer had a duty to defend.…

May 19, 2011

A Cautionary Digital Tale of Virtual Design and Construction

By: Nadine M. Post

A lawsuit over construction of a life-sciences building at a major university stands as the first known claim related to the use of building information modeling by an architect. Furthermore, the claim and its settlement serve as a cautionary tale to others using BIM, says the insurer.

“The creators of BIM claim its use reduces risk, and indeed it can—like any other tool, if it is used right,” says Randy Lewis, vice president of loss prevention and client education at the Denver office of XL Insurance, which provides professional liability insurance to licensed design professionals. “If you don’t use BIM correctly, you can get into trouble.”

For the life-sciences building, the architect and its mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer used BIM to fit the building’s MEP systems into the ceiling plenum. But the design team did not tell the contractor that the extremely tight fit, coordinated in the BIM, depended on a very specific installation sequence.…

September 1, 2010

Oct. trial set for La Plata County pollution suit


DENVER — La Plata County is scheduled to head to trial in October in its lawsuit against a rifle manufacturer over groundwater pollution at the jail.

The trial is set to start Oct. 10 in federal court in Denver.

The county wants Brown Group Retail Inc. to pay costs of cleaning up groundwater polluted with toxic chlorine-based solvents that it says seeped into the ground in the early 1980s, when the site made rifle scopes. The county bought the site from the company in 1983.

Brown Group says the county hasn’t shown how the groundwater pollution could harm people or animals.

The county previously has said the jail’ s air is safe for inmates and sheriffs employees.…