December 5, 2013

Lawsuits Result from Ruptured Pipeline

Read here about lawsuits against ExxonMobil over a pipeline rupture in Arkansas.


December 4, 2013

$8M oil spill deal

Source: Times Union (Albany, NY), November 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The world’s largest oil company is paying the state more than $8 million to cover disputed costs of a state-run cleanup of a former oil terminal on the St. Lawrence River, according to state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The payment from ExxonMobil settles a six-year legal disagreement and is the largest payment by a polluter ever made to the state Oil Spill Fund, which funds pollution cleanups run by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The fund gets most of its cash from taxpayers in the form of a gasoline tax.

Since 2006, the state spill fund has spent about $9.3 million for cleanup at Lighthouse Point on the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie rivers in Ogdensburg, where a petroleum terminal owned by ExxonMobil and its corporate ancestors operated for about a century before closing in 1984. Pollution was found there in 2001, and a state cleanup began several years later.

ExxonMobil initially believed it settled the cleanup bill for $6 million in 2006 with former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, but his successor, Thomas DiNapoli disputed that, saying the extra costs had to be addressed in any settlement. DiNapoli sent the case to Schneiderman.

“Through today’s agreement, we’re not only returning millions to the state but also holding ExxonMobil responsible for their role in this oil spill,” the attorney general said.

The remaining balance of the cleanup, more than $1 million, will be borne by the spill fund.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the State of New York,” said ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler.

For 2012-13, the fund spent about $14.8 million statewide on cleanups, and recovered about $8.2 million in reimbursement and penalties from polluters, ending the year with a $3 million deficit, according to state records. The fund began 416 cleanups statewide during that time, and completed 111.

Since the fund began in 1978, it has spent more than $464 million on spill cleanups, $306 million to run the program, and collected $196 million from polluters. During that same period, the gasoline tax kicked in $577 million.


September 25, 2013

Pa. well site will be focus of fierce legal battle

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 22, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The Marquardt well site is indistinguishable from most Marcellus Shale drilling locations: It encompasses about five acres of graded farmland, covered with gravel, containing two active natural gas wells.

But this well pad was the scene of a crime, according to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office, which on Sept. 10 announced charges against a subsidiary of the oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. for a spill that occurred here in 2010.

Three years ago, the site contained about 50 steel storage tanks, parked side by side, including some that held toxic drilling wastewater to be treated and recycled. The state says that more than 50,000 gallons — about 10 tractor-trailer loads — leaked through an open valve, flowed through a ditch, and polluted an unnamed creek.

Exxon Mobil’s subsidiary, XTO Energy Inc., is mounting a fierce legal and public-relations defense, saying the criminal charges are “unprecedented, baseless, and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

XTO portrays the spill as a minor event — closer to 6,300 gallons leaked — for which it has already made amends, and says there was no lasting environmental damage.

“They cleaned it up pretty quickly,” said Robert Marquardt, the cattle farmer whose fields of corn and alfalfa surround the wells.

He has no beef with XTO. But Kane does.

“The severity, the extent of the spill, was significant in this case,” said Joe Peters, a spokesman for the attorney general.…

September 16, 2013

Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 12, 2013
Posted on: http://fpn.advisen.com<\span>

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

“We have been very concerned about enforcement in the Marcellus, and we welcome the attorney general’s taking an active role,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Kane’s office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County.

XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.

The Fort Worth, Texas, drilling company, which Exxon acquired in 2010, said it had worked cooperatively with federal and state authorities to clean up the spilled waste, known as “produced water.” XTO excavated and removed 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site.…

August 6, 2013

George P. Mitchell and the entrepreneurial edge

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com, July 31, 2013
By: Robert J. Samuelson

You may have missed the obituary the other day of George P. Mitchell, who died at 94 and was someone of genuine consequence for the future of America and perhaps the world. He is not to be confused with George J. Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate majority leader (1989 to 1995), who is still alive and, despite a distinguished career and higher public profile, has had a smaller impact. The Mitchell who died was the mastermind of modern fracking. More than anyone else, he unlocked vast reserves of U.S. natural gas and oil to production and, in the process, transformed America’s energy outlook.

The juxtaposition between Mitchell the entrepreneur and Mitchell the politician is instructive. We pay obsessive attention to our political leaders, even when most leave little permanent legacy. By contrast and with some notable exceptions — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg — we downplay our entrepreneurs. Politicians are by definition public figures, usually craving publicity. Entrepreneurs are usually shrouded in obscure commercial transactions and achieve fame (or notoriety) only among their business peers. History is often viewed through politics, though it’s lived through economics.

This skewed perspective applies to Mitchell, the entrepreneur. For decades, geologists knew that huge reservoirs of natural gas and oil lay trapped in tight shale rock. The consensus was that tapping these supplies was too expensive. Mitchell rejected the consensus. By the early 1980s, his own medium-sized company — Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. — faced shrinking reserves of conventional natural gas. If shale gas could be made to pay, his supplies and the company’s value would multiply dramatically.…

July 30, 2013

$104.7M well-contamination judgment against Exxon Mobil upheld

Source: Business Insurance, July 29, 2013
By: Judy Greenwald

A federal appellate court panel has upheld a $104.7 million judgment for New York City against Exxon Mobil Corp. for allegedly contaminating city-owned wells in Queens with a gasoline additive from the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil said it plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Friday’s 117-page ruling by a unanimous panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in In Re: methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) products liability litigation, in October 2003, New York City sued Exxon and 28 other petroleum companies because of alleged injuries to its water supply from gasoline caused by the release of the chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether, the use of which New York state banned in 2004.

Treatment with the chemical “increased the oxygen content of gasoline and mitigated harm to air quality caused by automobile emissions, thereby furthering the goals of the Clean Air Act,” said the ruling. “Because of spillage and leakage for gasoline stored in underground tanks, however, MTBE-treated gasoline was released into the ground, contaminating groundwater supplies.”

Throughout the next year, the city amended its complaint to include 26 additional petroleum company defendants. All the defendants except Exxon Mobil settled before trial, according to the ruling.

2009 ruling

After an 11-week trial, in October 2009, a federal jury found Exxon liable for failure to warn, negligence, public nuisance and trespass, but acquitted it on liability on design defect and private nuisance charges.

The U.S. District Court entered a $104.7 million judgment against Exxon Mobil and its units. In appealing the court’s ruling, among other arguments, Exxon Mobil said the city’s common law claims are pre-empted by the federal Clean Air Act.


July 25, 2013

XTO settles federal water pollution charges in Pennsylvania

Source: Oil & Gas Journal, July 19, 2013
By: Nick Snow

ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and to spend $20 million to improve wastewater management practices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia natural gas operations.

The agreement came in a settlement of federal water pollution charges, the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced.

A consent decree, filed in federal court for Pennsylvania’s Middle District, is subject to a 30-day comment period and court approval.

The charges stemmed from a discharge discovered by a Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (PADEP) inspector’s visit to XTO’s Penn Township plant, where he observed wastewater spilling from an open valve from a series of interconnected tanks.

At the time, XTO stored wastewater from oil and gas activities throughout Pennsylvania at its Penn Township facility, DOJ and EPA said.

Pollutants were found in a Susquehanna River basin tributary. EPA, in consultation with PADEP, determined wastewater stored in the Penn Township facility’s tanks contained the same variety of pollutants, including chlorides, barium, strontium, and total dissolved solids, that were found in those surface waters.…

May 7, 2013

Arkansas Spill Zone Residents Await Plan to Return Home; New Leak in Missouri

Source: http://enr.construction.com, May 6, 2013
By: Candy McCampbell

One month after a pipeline rupture sent 210,000 gal of heavy crude oil through an Arkansas neighborhood, officials announced initiation of a “reentry plan” so residents can start returning to their homes.

That return will be “over the next few weeks,” according to a statement from the city-county-EPA-ExxonMobil command headquarters in Mayflower, Ark., near Little Rock.

“We are working with the construction crews and local Unified Command now to try to finalize the details around dates/times for these questions, but we don’t have that just yet,” Russ Roberts, ExxonMobil spokesman, says in response to questions about when homes would be available for occupancy and the neighborhood cleaned up.

The cause of the 22-ft gash in the Pegasus pipeline on March 29 is still under investigation. The 90,000-barrel-a-day pipeline carries diluted bitumen crude, or dilbit, from Patoka, Ill., to Nederland, Texas.

Meanwhile, the pipeline had a second, smaller breach near Doniphan, Mo., about 200 miles north of Mayflower. ExxonMobil said it was notified April 30 and that about one barrel, or 42 gal, leaked. The repair was completed May 3, but the pipeline remains shut down.

That breach is also being investigated. A preliminary investigation indicates the breach is related to action by an unspecified third party, Roberts says. The pipeline is marked.…

April 8, 2013

Oil barrels recovered in AR

Read here about thousands of barrels of oil and water that have been recovered after a pipeline ruptured in Arkansas.


April 2, 2013

Arkansas Town Hit By Oil Spill

Source: Dow Jones News Service, March 31, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com


Crews cleaned up thousands of barrels of crude over the weekend after an Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline ruptured and polluted an Arkansas town — an incident that underscored the fragility of the U.S. pipeline network.

Exxon said Friday’s breach caused a few thousand barrels of oil to spill into Mayflower, a town of less than 3,000 about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock. The Environmental Protection Agency called it a “major spill,” a category that includes any spill larger than 250 barrels.

More than 20 homes were evacuated. Other neighbors left to avoid the smell or breathing problems exacerbated by fumes, said state Rep. Doug House, a Republican from North Little Rock whose district includes Mayflower. He added that air monitors have found the air is safe in most areas.

Exxon said the pipeline, which is buried two feet underground, has been shut down.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said Sunday that an inspector was investigating the cause of the breach in the pipeline.

Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would ship Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast, on Sunday drew links between the Arkansas incident and Keystone. Steve Kretzmann, executive director of nonprofit advocacy group Oil Change International, predicted more incidents like the one in Mayflower if Keystone is built.

In a review last month, the U.S. State Department didn’t find major environmental risks associated with Keystone. The agency said TransCanada Corp. had agreed to conditions to reduce risks of spills or leaks.