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Action Alert: Say NO to Sunoco Logistics Hazardous Gas Liquids Pipeline and Their Bid for Public Utility Status

June 5, 2014

Say NO To Pipeline Politics!

DEADLINE: Right Now

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Monday, June 9, 2014 is the Public Utility Commission (PUC) filing deadline for comment on Sunoco Logistics application for Public Utility Status — not post-marked, but in PUC’s hands!

If granted public utility status, Sunoco Logistics will gain the ability to exercise Eminent Domain over the municipalities and citizens of Pennsylvania to build their controversial Mariner East pipeline. Don’t let the PUC give Sunoco Logistics a free pass on a volatile natural gas liquids pipeline project without being subject to local zoning ordinances and approvals. The Mariner East  is a high-pressure, high-volume pipeline with numerous pump and valve stations. Many townships are up in arms, understandably, and residents are demanding greater transparency and adequate time for public review.

Mail Your Letter to PUC Chairman, Robert Powelson TODAY.

Use the links HERE or customize this sample letter:   Read more…

SOS Susquehanna: Press Conference Call Today, 1 pm

June 5, 2014

Media Advisory: June 5, 2014

Contacts:  Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action: 717-585-2700

Joanne Kilgour, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter: 717-232-0101

Kristen Cevoli, PennEnvironment: (215) 732-5897

Tri-State Alliance Demands Governors Authorize Susquehanna Natural Gas Cumulative Impacts Study through SRBC:

Campaign Urges Focus on Shale Gas Drilling, Waste, Infrastructure 

Blue Heron along the Susquehanna River. Photo: Bucknell University.

WHAT: Groups in three states call on NY, PA and MD governors, Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), to demand a comprehensive study of shale gas operations’ cumulative impacts on water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin. The groups are holding press conferences in conjunction with meetings of the SRBC in their member state. The Pennsylvania event coincides with Thursday’s meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in Entriken, PA..

WHO: Environmental, faith-based, civic, and human rights groups: Clean Water Action, Sierra Club PA Chapter, Sierra Club MD Chapter, Protecting Our Waters, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Berks Gas Truth, PennEnvironment, League of Women Voters, PA

SPEAKERS:   Guy Alsentzer, Attorney, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Joanne Kilgour, Chapter Director, Sierra Club/Pennsylvania Chapter

Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action/Pennsylvania

Kristen Cevoli, PennEnvironment

Jennifer Quinn, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)

Susan Carty, Pa League of Women Voters

Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth

Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters

Michael Helfrich, The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

WHERE: Call in to participate - 800-509-6344    Access Code:  3387374#

WHEN: Thurs. June 5th at 1 PM EST.

 More information:   Nathan R Sooy

Central Pennsylvania Campaign Coordinator
Clean Water Action
www.cleanwateraction.org

(717) 233-1801 office

(717) 585-2700 cell

Oil Trains Letter: “President Obama Should Demand Immediate Action!”

June 4, 2014

Oi train derails and catches fire in Lynchburg, Virginia; spills into James River. Photo: Blue Virginia.

Today’s New York Times carries a strong response to their understated editorial, “Time to Move on Dangerous Tank Cars.”   Correctly identifying the scope of the problem as much bigger than old tank cars, Noah Greenwald asserts, “even stronger tanker cars are prone to puncture, leading to explosive, life-threatening fireballs and spills.” Here’s his letter in full:

To the Editor:

Re “Time to Move on Dangerous Tank Cars” (editorial, May 30):

Stronger tanker cars for transporting highly volatile crude oil will not alone protect our citizens, rivers or wildlife from this unchecked risk.

As your editorial correctly suggests, stronger federal regulations are needed immediately to counter the large increase in shipments of crude oil by rail. But as demonstrated in the recent accident in Lynchburg, Va., even stronger tanker cars are prone to puncture, leading to explosive, life-threatening fireballs and spills.

Inexplicably, the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have failed to meet their legal duty to update response plans to account for these spills and explosions.

We know that trains will continue to derail. And with billions of gallons of explosive crude oil moving by rail across the country, we know that these dangerous accidents will continue to threaten our communities and natural resources. President Obama should demand immediate action.

NOAH GREENWALD
Endangered Species Director
Center for Biological Diversity
Portland, Ore., May 30, 2014

Noah Greenwald’s contribution is an excellent example for the rest of us. Haven’t written your own letter about the oil trains disasters to your local, regional, statewide or national media outlets? The effort is worth it, because the regulators consistently downplay the actual dangers from the oil trains. The media also fails to connect the dots: this shale oil comes from Bakken Shale fracking and flaring, resulting in climate devastation, even as climate change is more and more recognized as Public Enemy #1. Try it your way: speak up. Speak out. Connect the dots. Stop the oil bomb trains.

EPA Action 12 Noon Today: Hold Coal Companies Accountable!

June 4, 2014

Today in Philadelphia, from 12 noon to 1 pm, activists are confronting the Environmental Protection Agency to demand it do its job, “putting an end to the cycle of surface mining and water pollution.” Here’s the alert from the Sierra Club:

Appalachia is locked into polluted water, and the EPA has the key
Join Us – Wed, June 4, 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm
EPA Region 3 Headquarters at 17th & Arch in Philadelphia

A coal ash pond pollutes the Ohio River. Hidden cameras exposed this pollution in March; Earthjustice and Sierra Club issued this press release about the pollution.

Coal companies need to be held accountable for the pollution it generates and monitored to make sure they abide by the rules and regulations of the Clean Water and Air Acts. The Virginia and West Virginia Departments of Environmental Protection are tasked with enforcing these rules, but often state agencies are not up to the task, or have a conflict of interest when trying to accommodate economic growth while protecting natural resources. That’s where the EPA comes in. The EPA needs to oversee state agencies and assist in the permitting process to put an end to cycle of surface mining and water pollution.

Tell the EPA to stand up to coal companies and state agencies. WE WILL STAND WITH YOU!
 Philadelphia is home to the region 3 headquarters of the EPA, which is responsible for all of Virginia and West Virginia. We are helping to give a voice to the people of Appalachia.
You’ve no doubt heard about the chemical spills in West Virginia. The coal ash spills in North Carolina and Virginia. (News stories here) And the toxins that are in groundwater in Appalachia are part of everyday life, but this is not acceptable.
Help us make some noise at the EPA today! Stand with the Sierra Club, Rising Tide and other environmental groups to show our support for the communities of Appalachia.
[You are welcome to join us for the march. Bring something to make some noise.]
Thanks,
Jim Wylie
Sierra Club Volunteer
484-753-3581
jim.wylie@verizon.net

 

If you missed participating in this event, you can still support it by writing a letter to the editor about it after the fact, or calling your federal legislators to urge them to make sure EPA does its job. If you’re reading this, chances are you are using electricity, and chances are good that coal is involved. So it’s all our job to step up the pressure on the EPA!

Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline is a “Recipe for Disaster”

June 2, 2014

Mariner East Pipeline: Sunoco Logistics plans to pipe high-pressure, volatile natural gas liquids (NGLs) from Pennsylvania’s fracking sacrifice zones to export from the Delaware River. Source: Observer-Reporter.

Across Pennsylvania, resistance is growing to Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East Pipeline from multiple perspectives:

  • Engineers and industry insiders assess the explosion risk from the re-purposed pipeline as a “recipe for disaster”.
  • Landowners and municipalities oppose Sunoco’s twisted attempt to use “public utility” status to evade local zoning regulations and to use eminent domain for land grabs,.
  • Environmental groups are disturbed by the climate impacts of the pipeline, which would export more than 50% of its contents (volatile fracked gas liquids, ethane and propane) overseas.
  • Community and environmental groups oppose the large-scale cumulative impacts on water, air and land from the fracking, refinery processing, pump stations, storage and export facilities which are all part of the Mariner East project.
  • Public health and human rights advocates are angered by the air pollution and drinking water contamination in communities impacted by fracking from cradle to grave, exemplified by the massive toxic smoke released by the MarkWest refinery in Houston, Pennsylvania, which is the western starting point of the Mariner East pipeline.

Increased Coordination

Of course, the above groups are not separate and are increasingly coordinating efforts. In particular, the June 9th PUC deadline for public comment on Sunoco Logistics’ application to evade local zoning laws by declaring itself a “public utility” has led to increased unity among the opponents. Sample letters for you to customize, print and mail are posted here in an action alert by Protecting Our Waters boosting this effort.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is among the groups which have stepped in to legally intervene in Sunoco’s attempt to be declared a public utility:

“In late March, Sunoco Logistics, L.P. submitted petitions to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) in 31 different townships, some of which are in the Delaware Watershed, along its proposed Mariner East Pipeline requesting that it be granted status as a public utility corporation. If the PUC says yes to that status change, Sunoco would be EXEMPT from local zoning for the additions of pump and valve stations.

“Sunoco’s Petitions to PUC state the Project will require the construction of 17 valve stations in 15 different municipalities, and the construction of 18 pumping stations in 18 different municipalities. DRN has filed comments and a motion to intervene with the PUC in order to challenge this dangerous request. In response to multiple interventions and objects Sunoco has filed a motion to submit an amended Petition for Exemption.  An interesting development demonstrating the power of the community attention on this important issue.”

Meanwhile, new blogs and websites opposing the Mariner East project have popped up, an indication of increasingly organized resistance from Westmoreland County in western PA and Dauphin County in central PA to Chester County in southeastern PA. The rhetoric varies from the straightforward “Just the Facts, Please” and the highly focused Chester County Community Coalition to Chester County Ramblings, which compared Sunoco Logistics pipelines to cockroaches, in their post titled “Sleazy Sunoco,” on April 30th, 2014. This argument embodies a property rights perspective:

I have learned from Chester County residents who already have the older version of the pipeline a couple of interesting things: I thought (mistakenly and incorrectly) that if Sunoco used someone’s property that they paid rent annually to the property owner. I am told they don’t. I also wondered what happened when real estate changed hands. Apparently Sunoco doesn’t pay homeowners who inherit them in their backyards anything.

So basically, letting Sunoco in is like allowing cockroaches?

An earlier post on the same site, “Will it be eminent domain and pipelines, Sunoco?” challenges Sunoco’s attempt to claim eminent domain for its pipelines. The Mariner East pipelines would  benefit only Sunoco execs and investors, since the pipelines are carrying NGLs — natural gas liquids, a product of intensive fracking in western Pennsylvania — to be exported to Norway, jacking up the greenhouse gas footprint sky-high, pun intended.

Pump Stations Ignite Protest

Residents in West Goshen, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, are “fighting mad, and battling Sunoco Logistics and its plan for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project,” reports Jeremy Gerrard of the Daily Local News:

Staff photo by Tom Kelly IV Hundreds of people pack the West Goshen Township Building to discuss the Sunoco pipeline at a meeting on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Source: DailyLocal.com

W. Goshen residents upset with gas pump station proposal By Jeremy Gerrard, Daily Local News POSTED: 03/30/14, 7:47 PM EDT |

WEST GOSHEN — Township residents are organizing against the construction of a proposed natural gas pump station, voicing outrage over possible health and safety issues from the facility.

“This doesn’t just affect West Goshen, but every community from here to Marcus Hook,” resident Tom Casey said.

Sunoco is requesting a variance from West Goshen at an April 3, 2014 zoning meeting to build a pipeline pump station with 34 foot ‘flare stack’ in a neighborhood at Boot Road and Route 202. Sunoco has similar requests in 31 municipalities across Pa as it transitions a cross-state petroleum pipeline to ethane, butane, propane liquid gas use.

Mariner East Pipeline “Recipe for Disaster”

Source: Independent Reporting on Marcellus-Shale.Us

So, aside from high-impact fracking; the toxic MarkWest refinery in Western Pennsylvania; Sunoco attempting to use  eminent domain to legalize stealing land from regular people — including farmers — along the way; polluting pump stations; and increased global warming, what else is not to like about the Mariner East pipeline?

Danger, that’s what. Protecting Our Waters already pointed out the danger of explosion here, here, and here, but even we had missed a key technical reason why this project should not go forward.

An authoritative source close to the project emailed me privately to emphasize a little-known aspect of the pipeline which he says makes it a “recipe for disaster”:

Mariner East will be transporting ethane and propane exclusively in the liquid state. The operating pressures required to transport liquid propane and ethane are significantly higher than the pressures used to transport refined products, like gasoline and diesel fuel. This is because gasoline/diesel are liquids at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, while ethane/propane exist as gases. The only way to keep ethane and propane in the liquid state is to keep them under high pressure.
Why does this matter? Sunoco claims to be reusing existing pipelines that previously carried refined products. This means that pipe in Mariner East will be seeing 150-200% more pressure than it has ever seen before. I’m sure that the pipe sections are rated for the increased operating pressures, but these ratings are given by pipe manufacturers for new pipe, not pipe that has been sitting in the ground for decades. When you look at the heavily populated areas that Sunoco is planning to run Mariner East through, this seems like the recipe for disaster.
If you live in Pennsylvania or Delaware, now’s a good time to start writing and calling your state and local legislators to get them on board to stop this project, which turns our communities into sacrifice zones for exports to Norway.
And don’t forget– if you’re reading this before June 7th, use this Action Alert to write the PUC yourself.

 

 

 

 

“Huge victory”: Stanford Divests $18 Billion Endowment from Coal Stock

May 8, 2014

Under pressure from Fossil Free Stanford, Stanford University announced on Tuesday that it would immediately divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies. The New York Times commented yesterday on Stanford’s role as a national and global leader: “At least 11 small universities have elected to remove fossil-fuel stocks from their endowments, but none approaches Stanford’s prestige or national influence.”

Stanford students: hard work led to breakthrough. Photo: Fossil Free Stanford Facebook page.

Yari Greaney, 20, a Fossil Free Stanford organizer, said the group was “very proud of Stanford taking this leadership position.” Bill McKibben, leader of 350.org, emphasized that Stanford “knows the havoc that climate change creates around our planet… Other forward-thinking and internationally minded institutions will follow, I’m sure.” Maura Cowley, executive director of Energy Action Coalition, called the decision a “huge, huge victory.”

Fossil Free Stanford: Another Grad Student for Divestment.

Stanford’s focus on divesting from coal includes about 100 companies wordwide which have coal mining as their primary activity. The decision came after an advisory panel of students, faculty, staff and alumni spent about five months studying the issue before making their recommendation, Deborah DeCotis, the chairwoman of the board’s special committee on investment responsibility, told the New York Times.

Fossil Fuels Meet Criteria for “Substantial Social Injury”

The university’s decision to divest from coal hinged on three elements. First: the growing clout of the campaign to divest fossil fuel investments, which now has a base on 300 campuses. Second: Stanford’s internal guidance allows its trustees to consider whether “corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury” when choosing investments. Third: the Stanford coalition was successful in using a broad-based study group, in addition to protest and pressure tactics, to achieve consensus among students, faculty, staff and alumni, giving the trustees a solid basis for their decision. It’s likely that, having witnessed this major success, other university-based groups will emulate their tactics. While coal currently stands alone in Stanford’s decision to divest, Ms. DeCotis told the Times,

This is not the ending point. It’s a process. We’re a research institute, and as the technology develops to make other forms of alternative energy sources available, we will continue to review and make decisions about things we should not be invested in. Don’t interpret this as a pass on other things.”

“Other things” should include shale oil and gas, damaging fossil fuel infrastructure, and other aspects of extreme energy extraction, such as the uranium mining which has poisoned First Nations’ lands for many decades. The vagueness of “other things” leaves us on the edge of our seats, eager to witness Act Two as Stanford begins to take its moral responsibility to stop escalating climate change more seriously.

Looking Forward: Fracking, Earthquakes, and Divestment

Yesterday’s New York Times physically positioned its prominent coverage of Stanford’s decision, “Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock,” on page A15, immediately below its major story on climate, “U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Scientists Find in Study.” But they also positioned it immediately to the left of “Scientists See Quake Risk Increasing in Oklahoma,” as if to remind alert readers that those who laughed a few years ago at the prospect of increasing frequency and intensity of earthquakes due to underground injection of fracking waste… are no longer laughing. Oklahoma has already experienced 145 “small” earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher this year, according to scientists with the United States Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Prior to the onset of fracking waste injection wells, for thirty years — the three decades until 2009 — Oklahoma averaged only two quakes a year of magnitude 3.0 or higher. Scientists now say that the sharp rise in the number of earthquakes due to oil and gas flowback injection underground has “significantly increased the chances that a damaging quake will occur there.” Perhaps water contamination from shale gas and oil operations; massive climate-harming methane leaks throughout the extraction, processing and transportation life-cycle of shale gas; intense air pollution; and harms to public health — not to mention earthquakes — from high-volume horizontal shale fracking with multi-well pads… will soon be on Stanford’s list of fossil fuels that create “substantial social injury” as the divestment movement broadens, deepens, and wins.

Breaking: Hundreds Evacuated after Explosion, Fire at Williams LNG Facility

March 31, 2014

Hundreds evacuated after Wash. gas plant explosion

Two hundred people have been evacuated, with at least one injury, after an explosion and fire today at an LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility in Washington operated by Williams Partners.  Everyone within a two-mile radius has been evacuated. Residents as far as three miles away have said they felt the explosion and can see the smoke.
Williams Partners is already infamous in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where it’s been responsible for numerous compressor station fires, releases of toxic substances, and incidents causing injuries and evacuations. Shale industry critic William Huston charges that Williams is currently illegally operating an unpermitted compressor station in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, as Williams rushes to join the Marcellus Shale gas boom profiteers. With this breaking news Williams is newly infamous on the west coast as well.
CNBC and Reuters reported  hours ago, today, Monday, March 31:
A fire broke out on Monday at a Plymouth, Washington, natural gas storage facility operated by Williams Partners, and was followed by an explosion, a local fire department official told Reuters.

The fire started at the facility early on Monday and was followed by an explosion in one storage tank, said Ed Dunbar, a captain with the Benton County Fire District office. Messages left for Williams’ officials were not immediately returned.

Residents within a two-mile (3.2 km) radius of the area were told to evacuate, Dunbar said.

The fire’s cause was still unknown. Local media have reported some injuries.

According to its website, Williams operates a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Plymouth. To create LNG, natural gas is cooled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit at which point it condenses into a clear, orderless liquid, according to Williams’ website.

The LNG is stored in large tanks, built with a double-wall design, Williams said.

Shares in The Williams Cos Inc fell 1.2 percent in early afternoon trading. A Williams spokesman told CNBC the company was in the midst of responding to the incident.

–By Reuters. CNBC contributed to this report.

From KULR TV:

BREAKING: Fire and Explosion at Natural Gas Plant near Plymouth

Posted: Mar 31, 2014 9:23 AM PST Updated: Mar 31, 2014 9:23 AM PST

PLYMOUTH, WA – Firefighters are evacuating hundreds of people in Plymouth, Washington after a fire and explosion at the Williams Northwest Pipeline facility, a natural gas plant.

Firefighters from several agencies are performing a structural strike team response at the facility at 42612 Christie Road.

We’ve heard reports of at least one injury. Plymouth has a population of around 300 people.

Over the police scanners, one first responder said a 1.2 billion cubic foot natural gas container exploded, which has created a cloud that is evaporating, and heading towards Plymouth.

911 dispatchers are contacting the Paterson, Kennewick and Umatilla School Districts to bring in school buses to help with the evacuations.

Dispatchers say they’re shutting down Christie Road and Highway 14 surrounding the plant.

Several people living around the Plymouth area, some as far as three miles away, say they felt the explosion and can see the smoke.

We have a reporter headed to the area to learn more. Stay tuned for updates.

Associated Press reports:

1 hurt in natural gas blast at Washington plant

By The Associated Press Updated: Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:36 am Published: Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:38 am

PLYMOUTH, Wash. (AP) — An explosion and fire at a Williams Northwest Pipeline plant near the Washington-Oregon border have injured one worker and prompted evacuations at the facility and at nearby homes.

Company spokeswoman Michele Swaner says all employees were evacuated and accounted for after the explosion Monday morning at the Plymouth, Wash., plant, where liquefied natural gas is converted into vapor. She says one employee was burned but will recover.

Benton County Emergency Operations spokeswoman Carol Cimrhakl says people in a 2-mile radius of the plant are being evacuated.

Tri-City Herald reports Highway 14 through Plymouth is being closed.

The fire was still burning at 10 a.m. Swaner says it’s too early to determine the extent of the damage or how it happened.

Williams operates two liquefied natural gas tanks at Plymouth, which is across the Columbia River from Umatilla, Ore.

Victory: Court Substantially Narrows Injunction in Vera Scroggins Case

March 31, 2014

Victory: Court Substantially Narrows Injunction Against Pennsylvania Anti-Fracking Advocate Vera Scroggins

Revised Order Lifts Restrictions on Hundreds of Square Miles of Advocate’s Home County

March 28, 2014

Contact: Scott Michelman (202) 588-1000
Karilyn Gower (202) 588-7779

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A court ruling today in a case against a Pennsylvania anti-fracking activist is a significant victory for advocates everywhere, said Public Citizen, which represented the activist in court.

Susquehanna County Judge Kenneth Seaman today substantially narrowed an injunction placed on anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins in a lawsuit brought by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. Public Citizen represented Scroggins in court on Monday arguing that the prior injunction – which barredScroggins from land where Cabot has a lease to extract gas from under the surface, including Scroggins’ grocery store, the homes of some of her friends and the nearest hospital – was overbroad and violated Scroggins’ First Amendment rights. The revised injunction no longer applies to properties on which Cabot has mineral leases but no active operations.

“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Scroggins, a 63-year-old resident of Brackney, Pa., and grandmother of two. “I am much better off today than I was yesterday in terms of where I can go.”

“Today’s ruling is a big victory for Vera and for advocates everywhere,” said Scott Michelman, Public Citizen attorney, who argued the motion to vacate the injunction on Monday. “We obtained most of what we wanted from this motion to vacate, and also beat back Cabot’s suggestion to impose buffer zones of as much as 500 feet on Ms. Scroggins. Today’s ruling shows that big gas companies like Cabot can’t punish advocates for their speech.”

The original injunction, entered in October 2013, applied to more than 300 square miles. Today’s order bars Scroggins only from Cabot-owned properties and from within 100 feet of any active well pad or the access roads associated with them. “We have concerns that the 100-foot buffer zone sweeps too broadly into areas open to the public where Vera might engage in activities protected by the First Amendment,” noted Michelman. “We’ll be considering how best to address those concerns at trial on May 1.”

Scroggins is also represented by the law office of Gerald A. Kinchy, in Sayre, Pa., and ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold J. “Vic” Walczak.

View more information on the case here.

See photos of Vera Scroggins press conference by Wendy Lynne Lee here.

Press: Vera Scroggins case covered in 3 countries, 7 states, U.S. wire services, and more

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Landowner Wins $2.1 Million Judgment Against Gas Pipeline Company

March 25, 2014

Texas Landowners Win $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pipeline Company Over Lower Property Value

Yesterday ABC News reported on another significant victory in the struggle landowners face when confronted by unwanted shale gas pipelines, which can cause lasting damage while endangering not only property, but life.

Legal strategies along these lines are emerging as increasingly important as the oil and gas industry moves quickly to build pipelines to export LNG and NGLs (natural gas liquids), which would increase the devastation fracking causes to climate and to impacted communities. Here’s the news:

Case marks third landowner victory in pipeline easement disputes

CLEBURNE, Texas, March 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – North Texas family members have won a $2.1 million verdict against a pipeline company after their parcel of land lost value because an easement was taken for a gas line. This marks the third time Texas property owners recently have prevailed in similar eminent domain cases.

The Johnson County dispute represents a fundamental debate between the pipeline industry and Texas landowners: Does a pipeline devalue only the narrow easement strip or some larger portion of the overall property? The jury agreed that land outside the easement lost value.

“This verdict sends a strong message that pipeline easements often cause significant damages to property beyond the easement area,” says Austin-based eminent domain attorney Luke Ellis of Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, who represented the family partnership at trial. “Unfortunately, many Texas landowners don’t realize that they have a constitutional right to seek just compensation for such damages.”

The dispute began in 2007 when Midland-based Peregrine Pipeline Co. sued family-owned Eagle Ford Land Partners to gain a mile-long easement for a natural gas pipeline. Peregrine claimed Eagle Ford’s damages totaled only about$80,000. The family’s appraisers and lawyers countered that damages should account not only for the easement strip, but also for the loss in value to the remaining property.

After a one-week trial in County Court at Law No. 2 in Johnson County, jurors awarded the family partnership more than $1.6 million. Judge Robert Dohoney entered the final judgment of $2.1 million, which includes interest. The case is Peregrine Pipeline Co., L.P. v. Eagle Ford Land Partners, LP, No. E-2007-00046. Peregrine plans to appeal.

The judgment continues a trend in similar Texas condemnation cases and is one of the largest so far in favor of a landowner. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court denied review of a McMullen County verdict against LaSalle Pipeline LP. Earlier this month a Fort Worth appeals court denied reconsideration of its decision in favor of a landowner over Crosstex DC Gathering Co.

Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, a trial and appellate boutique with offices in Austin and Houston, focuses on commercial litigation, eminent domain, probate and fiduciary matters, and appeals. Visit the firm online at http://jmehlaw.com/the-firm/.

For information on the pipeline verdict, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

Wyoming Supreme Court Rejects Argument to Keep Fracking Chemicals Secret

March 12, 2014

Wyoming Supreme Court Rejects Fracking Industry Argument to Withhold Chemicals as Trade Secrets

Litigation continues to better identify the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing

Cheyenne, WY — Today, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued its decision in a case where Powder River Basin Resource Council and other groups challenged the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission’s withholding of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemical information from public disclosure and review.

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case back to the District Court in Casper, Wyoming to fix certain deficiencies. In its opinion, the Court ruled in favor of the Resource Council in two main ways: 1) It held the Oil and Gas Commission has the burden of justifying the use of a trade secrets exemption and 2) It found that the definition of trade secrets under the Freedom of Information Act applies in Public Records Act cases, such as this one. In contrast, the Oil and Gas Commission wanted to use a broader definition of trade secrets, which would allow more withholding of chemical information from public disclosure and review.

EPA Results Show Contaminated Water Inside Wyoming Fracking Zone; Residents Told Not to Drink from Water Wells" -- Stacy Feldman, Inside Climate News

“EPA Results Show Contaminated Water Inside Wyoming Fracking Zone; Residents Told Not to Drink from Water Wells” — Stacy Feldman, Inside Climate News

We’re pleased the Court recognized that the Oil and Gas Commission has to fully and rationally justify its use of trade secrets exemptions before it can hide fracking chemical information from public review,” stated Marilyn Ham, Resource Council Board Member from Laramie County, Wyoming. “We’re looking forward to the next stage of the case and hopefully to getting better information out to the public on what chemicals are used in fracking operations.

“It is important for public health and safety that citizens have timely access to what chemicals are used in fracking operations on and near our land,” stated Kristi Mogen, a Resource Council Board Member who lives near fracking operations in Converse County, Wyoming. “We applaud Powder River Basin Resource Council for their hard work in bringing this case and for their dedication to empowering the residents of Wyoming.”

“If chemical information is being improperly labeled a trade secret that means it is not available as public information as Wyoming’s hydraulic fracturing regulations intended,” stated Shannon Anderson of the Resource Council.

“We appreciate that the court took seriously the need for the public to know what chemicals are being injected during oil and gas production. We hope that now the state agency will do likewise,” stated Bruce Baizel of EARTHWORKS.

“The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed that the public’s right to know is paramount under state law. If fracking operators don’t want to reveal what chemicals they use, they will have to prove that the chemicals are trade secrets, which means they shouldn’t be able to capriciously keep secrets from the public about dangerous chemicals,” said Katherine O’Brien, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs. “We will continue the fight in the trial court to ensure that the identity of fracking chemicals—which threaten the water supplies that communities depend upon—cannot be kept secret from the public.”

“As we’ve noted in the past, the recipe for Coca-Cola is a trade secret, but the ingredients are not, and they’re all listed on the can. We’re glad that the Wyoming Supreme Court agrees that this critical chemical information should be disclosed to the state’s residents and public interest organizations,” stated Sean Moulton, Director, Open Government Policy, Center for Effective Government.

The decision is available here (downloadable PDF).
ONLINE VERSION: earthjustice.org.
For more information contact:

Katherine O’Brien, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
Shannon Anderson, Powder River Basin Resource Council, (307) 672-5809
Kristi Mogen, Powder River Resource Council Board Member, (307) 359-2928

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