Fracking Lawsuit


Fracking Lawsuit

Can the lawsuit be an effective tool against corporate misconduct? It has been, continues to be and will be again. But what about fracking? Can lawsuits affect the practice? And I want to focus here on one aspect of fracking, and that is the disposal of waste water by injecting it deep into the earth apparently near fault lines.

Here is a brief quote from an article in Think Progress – found here: Oklahoma Residents Sue Energy Companies Over Earthquake Damage | ThinkProgress
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/01/12/3738417/oklahoma-earthquake-residents-lawsuit/

This week, a group of 14 homeowners in Edmond, Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against 12 energy companies, claiming that the companies’ fracking operations have contributed to this uptick in earthquakes. Specifically, the lawsuit targets the companies’ wastewater disposal wells, claiming that the injection of fracking wastewater into these wells “caused or contributed” to earthquakes and constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.”

In the lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County court, the residents focus on two earthquakes — of 4.3and 4.2 magnitude — that struck Edmond on December 29 and January 1. The plaintiffs say they suffered damage from the earthquakes, and that the energy companies were “negligent, careless, and reckless” in their treatment of the earthquake risks surrounding wastewater injection.

i010We have questionable behavior on the part of the energy companies and a lawsuit alleging that behavior has caused harm. This works for society with most industries. Ford and General Motors have to build their cars with the knowledge that they can be sued for misconduct. Obviously, this threat hanging over their heads doesn’t always stop them from making foolish and lethal decisions but my experience is that we live in a much, much safer world because companies have to worry about being sued.

So, why do I have doubts that this will work? These aren’t “regular” companies. These are energy companies. They are the primary political powers in a number of states and the reach of their think tanks, political action committee, etc. is very difficult to measure, so enormous is the money and influence being deployed. No, these aren’t regular corporations.

I think they’ll follow the path blazed by the firearms industry and create restrictive law protecting them from lawsuits. The first legislative acts I expect to see will force those that sue and lose in court to one of these companies to pay all court costs. It may be more difficult and take more time, but in the long term they will simply seek and almost certainly get a blanket restriction on lawsuits in the “national” interest. Expect to see a giant legislative preamble talking about energy independence and the need to protect “innovation.”

James Pilant

DEP, “Don’t Expect Protection”


DEP, “Don’t Expect Protection”

pennsylvania-enviornment_0Fracking’s Toxic Secrets: Lack Of Transparency Over Natural Gas Drilling Endangers Public Health, Advocates Say

Some frustrated residents and anti-fracking activists are finding new names to call the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — “Don’t Expect Protection,” “Department of Energy Production” — according to Dana Dolney of ShaleTest, a nonprofit that provides free air and water quality testing for low-income residents near natural gas wells.

The department is taking heat for providing what critics see as incomplete water quality test results to property owners who are concerned about pollution from nearby fracking operations. Withholding such information, the critics say, could endanger residents’ health.

“Based on what is happening in the Marcellus Shale, we saw a huge desperate need for this kind of testing,” Dolney said. “We wouldn’t have to do what we do if it wasn’t for the failures of the DEP.”

The DEP and natural gas companies are defending the testing methods, asserting that the contaminants most likely to be associated with fossil fuel extraction are included in what is shared with the DEP and, subsequently, with homeowners.

Still, critics suggest the purported “filtering” of testing data is just one of the ways people are left in the dark about the assortment of heavy metals and other toxic contaminants that may be in their air and water as a result of drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other phases of natural gas production. Recent studies have identified more than 600 chemicals used throughout the process of natural gas production, and often left undisclosed by companies. Additionally, natural but equally hazardous substances can be released from the wells.

Fracking’s Toxic Secrets: Lack Of Transparency Over Natural Gas Drilling Endangers Public Health, Advocates Say

Not telling people the information you don’t want them to have is lying. It’s just easier to justify to yourself. This is what happens when an agency is captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate.

James Pilant

 

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Fracking and 280 Billion Gallons of Toxic Waste Water


English: toxic waste sign Italiano: segnale pe...
English: toxic waste sign Italiano: segnale per rifiuti speciali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to wonder if this is not one of the great business ethics issues of our time. Fracking is in many ways protected from federal regulation and the energy companies generous campaign contributions (thanks to Citizens United) have warped state regulations and even the tax laws in favor of the frackers.

I can’t help but think that there could have been protections or developments in process that would have made these methods of exploration safer for the environment. We need the feds on the job. I don’t believe we can look to the industry for our protection. Their press releases have been little but the usual work of corporate PR flacks. That kind of media and public manipulation became obvious a long time ago.

Fracking should be done only with effective regulation both state and federal. What part of American history can lead one to believe in self-regulation? How about the patent medicine companies with their laudanum and opiates? How about investment banks and the great collapse of the first decade of the 21st century? Or simply, the history of the petroleum industry itself, leaks in the Alaska pipeline, a long series of tanker disasters and a little problem called the Gulf Oil Spill? What of this give you confidence that fracking is safe and harmless.

I tell you with confidence that in a few years, fracking will be in every business ethics textbook as a cautionary tale of an industry making its own calls on the safety of the public.

James Pilant

Fracking produces annual toxic waste water enough to flood Washington DC | Environment | theguardian.com

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/04/fracking-us-toxic-waste-water-washington

Fracking in America generated 280bn US gallons of toxic waste water last year – enough to flood all of Washington DC beneath a 22ft deep toxic lagoon, a new report out on Thursday found.The report from campaign group Environment America said America’s transformation into an energy superpower was exacting growing costs on the environment.”Our analysis shows that damage from fracking is widespread and occurs on a scale unimagined just a few years ago,” the report, Fracking by the Numbers, said.The full extent of the damage posed by fracking to air and water quality had yet to emerge, the report said.But it concluded: “Even the limited data that are currently available, however, paint an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health.”

via Fracking produces annual toxic waste water enough to flood Washington DC | Environment | theguardian.com.

From around the web.

From the web site,

http://lewesagainstfracking.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/united-nations-global-environmental-alert-on-fracking/

In November of last year the United Nations released a ‘Global Environmental Alert’ on the risks that fracking poses to public health and the environment. In it they state:

While offering economic and energy security benefits, UG (unconventional gas) production presents considerable environmental risks. These range from potential water and soil contamination from surface leaks or from improperly designed well-casing, to spills of improperly treated water, increased competition for water usage, and fugitive emissions of gas with implications for the global climate…air pollution from volatile contaminants, noise pollution, negative impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity losses and landscape disruption.’

Read the full report here….UN Report

Josh Fox Under Attack


Josh Fox Under Attack

“They’re the Birthers of Fracking.” A Conversation with Josh Fox.

Earlier this week, a group of House Republicans were treated to a screening of FrackNation—a KickStarter’d documentary that aims to debunk the Oscar-nominated, fracking-skeptical Gasland. I reported a bit on the screening (which ended with free DVDs for attendees) and reviewed the movie, paying notice to how filmmaker Phelim McAleer appeared to frazzle Gasland director Josh Fox. Early in the film, McAleer shows up at a Q&A with Fox and asks him why his movie didn’t explain that methane has been in some water supplies for years, and that shocking video of water being lit on fire wasn’t as shocking as it looked. Fox asks for McAleer’s credentials and calls the question “irrelevent.” McAleer, duly inspired, makes a movie.

It’s a bit much, says Fox. “I gave the guy, not knowing who he was, a long, academic answer,” he explains. “I’d just gotten off the plane, and I just found out somebody robbed my house! I wasn’t thinking about it in a media context, and unfortunately there was nobody else in the room taping. So they pulled a kind of Shirley Sherrod thing where they completely misrepresented the Q&A session.”

Since making Gasland, Fox has become a sought-after speaker and activist for the anti-fracking movement. With that comes criticism, and with that occasional, judicious pushback against the allegation that the water-on-fire scene is misleading. “I’d been asked the same questions before, and answered them before,” says Fox. “I’ve been part of something like 250 debates around the U.S. and the world. At almost every one, some oil and gas shill says something like this. They’re the birthers of fracking. This argument about biogemic and thermogenic gas is one of the things that the oil and the gas industry brings up as a distraction. Both biogenic and thermogenic gas can be released by drilling, and the industry says so.”

“They’re the Birthers of Fracking.” A Conversation with Josh Fox.

 

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Pennsylvania’s Revolving Door


Pennsylvania’s Revolving Door

The Flag of Pennsylvania
The Flag of Pennsylvania

Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania | Public Accountability Initiative

Numerous top government officers and environmental regulators in Pennsylvania have either left their public jobs for careers in the oil and gas industry or come to government from the industry.

The revolving door trend in Pennsylvania raises questions about whether regulators are serving the public interest or private industry interests in their oversight of fracking.

The following are major findings from the report:

  • Pennsylvania’s previous three governors have strong ties to the natural gas industry. Tom Ridge’s firms benefited from a $900,000 contract to lobby for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Mark Schweiker joined a lobbying firm with a Marcellus Shale practice, and Ed Rendell is a partner in a private equity firm invested in fracking services companies and recently lobbied on behalf of driller Range Resources. Current governor Tom Corbett also has strong ties to the industry – he received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and previously worked as a lawyer for Waste Management, which is active in the Marcellus Shale.
  • Every Secretary of Environmental Protection since the DEP was created has had ties to the natural gas industry. Jim Seif is now a principal and energy consultant at Ridge Global LLC, one of former governor Ridge’s firms that lobbied for the Marcellus Shale Coalition; David Hess is now a lobbyist at Crisci Associates and has gas industry clients; Kathleen McGinty has served on the boards of two energy companies, is managing director of a consulting firm that is part of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and is a partner in former Governor Rendell’s private equity firm; John Hanger is now special counsel to a law firm that represents every segment of the natural resources industry; and Michael Krancer is former general counsel at a utility that relies on natural gas and a former partner at a law firm member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania | Public Accountability Initiative

You should read the whole report – here. (pdf. file)

There are many people who find this practice of moving from the government to private industry and back again to not be a problem. I don’t get it. How is it moral to develop expertise in industry wrong doing to use it against the government later? How is it moral to work for companies that are heavily dependent on the government for profits, and then switch to government service with every prospect of returning to an extremely lucrative salary with that same industry?

Why don’t we just call it, “slow bribery?” You don’t get the money up front, you get in exchange for services provided over time.

This is how regulatory capture works. This is how public servants can cash in. This is how influence is sold for hard cash.

James Pilant

 

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Hydraulic Fracking and Earthquakes?


Does Hydraulic Fracturing Trigger Earthquakes?

Here’s a quote from the article entitled as above –

English: Hanging wall vs Foot wall - faults ar...

Image via Wikipedia

While the presence of a fault line in this region of the United States can be an apt explanation for the 5.6 magnitude Oklahoma earthquake, what about the sudden rise in seismic activity here? Between 1972 to 2008, an average of 2-6 earthquakes were recorded in the state of Oklahoma every year. In 2009, the number of earthquakes recorded reached 50, and further increased to a whopping 1047 in 2010. One cannot ignore the fact that more than a thousand drilling wells and more than a hundred injection wells have cropped up in this region over the course of time. Back in August itself, the region experienced a series of tremors, all ranging between the magnitude of 1 and 2.5, and now the 5.6 magnitude quake. While environmentalists are citing the link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes to oppose such projects, those in this business refute these allegations as baseless.

Does Hydraulic Fracturing Trigger Earthquakes?

Does hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes? From what I have read so far, it would appear possible that fracking may have a lot to do with small earthquakes and may cause thousands of tiny almost insignificant earthquakes.

Having grown up in Oklahoma, I can’t help but recall that there was virtually never an earthquake. However, that they are much more common now is weak evidence that hydraulic fracking is the cause. If there is a pattern of fracking related earthquakes we will soon have measurable data. Both earthquakes and hydraulic fracking are trackable by geography, and patterns, if forming, should become visible.

Let us consider, however, what the effect of thousands of small quakes will be in a state like Oklahoma. What will the effects be? Generally they will be imperceptible one at a time. It seems to me though that bridges, roads and large concrete and stone structures are likely to take damage as the small insults multiply. How much damage? I have no idea. California has many small earthquakes a year. Maybe they have some data.

One thing is clear. Fracking should have been studied in depth before any large amount was done. There should now be continuous studies and a large tax laid upon the industry to finance both studies and regulation.

James Pilant

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I Showed the Documentary, Gasland, Today


Films receive a wide variety of responses in the college classroom. The response to Gasland was excellent. The class paid careful attention, had good questions and comments. I knew of the film but did not intend to use it in class. My Tuesday-Thursday class actually asked to see it. So, I read up on it, and it struck me as useful. I’ve shown it in three classes now with the same positive results in each class.

Josh Fox

This is a Josh Fox film. The first time you see it, you are shocked by his story of unregulated drilling of natural gas known as fracking. But is only the second time, you realize the skill of our documentarian. The film never sags. It always keeps the audience engaged. The film is well paced and its plotline beautifully constructed. I’ll be watching for any of his films in the future. It may well be that his work will grow in skill as time goes by.

It is troubling to consider that for most of us, Josh Fox is our only defense against the practice of fracking. Only a handful of states regulate it, and the response of most of officialdom to complaints is basically to drop dead.

You see, an act of Congress relieved the giant energy companies of the need to comply with federal environmental laws. Federal agencies aren’t even allowed to study what the companies are doing. We only have partial knowledge of the chemicals being used, and the very fact that these companies essentially placed themselves outside the law through a compliant Congress raises suspicions of their motives.

I think until strong regulation is enacted to deal with the fracking problem, I will be using the film in class.

Below is a link to the web address for Josh Fox’s film, Gasland.

Gasland

And here is the link for the trailer.

Gasland

Here is the link to buy it on Amazon.com.

Gasland

I recommend it for classroom use at the college level.

James Pilant

Tapwater that ignites.
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