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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.


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


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

For information on the pipeline verdict, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

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).
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

Pushback Against LNG Exports Growing

March 7, 2014

The organized resistance to LNG exports is increasing rapidly, from large demonstrations and civil disobedience to the halls of Congress.  On Thursday, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and their allies in Congress pushed back against the shale gas industry’s campaign to exploit the crisis overseas by pushing for faster approval of environmentally destructive — and dangerous — LNG export facilities in the U.S.

LNG exports would not even reach Europe in time to help weaken Russia’s energy advantage, pragmatists argued cogently. That’s because prices are higher in Asia than in Europe, and because the first exports won’t begin until 2015 at the earliest, hardly in time to influence an intensely immediate crisis.  The House Foreign Affairs Committee nonetheless added a pro-gas amendment to a bill calling for tougher sanctions for Russia.

Politico reports, “Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) scoffed during the committee markup at [the] call for gas exports. ‘My 13-year-old daughter would also like a pony,’ Grayson said before Republicans admonished him.”

Grist writer Ben Adler punches holes in the pro-LNG-export arguments here: “Republicans use Putin as an excuse to push fossil-fuel projects,”

In “Greens on Gas: Not So Fast,” Politico reports:

Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s senior director in Washington, called the use of the Ukraine card in the gas debate “a red herring.”

“Exporting LNG is no quick fix to this international crisis,” Manuel said. “All this aside, many of the proponents of LNG exports continue their willful ignorance about the dangers of gas fracking to American families’ health, land, water and air.”

More from Politico’s “Greens on Gas: Not So Fast”:

Vladimir Putin autographs a pipe during an opening ceremony of a launch of natural gas in the city of Vladivostok. | AP Photo

The shipments of liquefied natural gas might not even make it to Europe. | AP Photo


The drive to weaken Vladimir Putin though natural gas exports is meeting a green backlash.

Environmentalists and their congressional allies scoffed Thursday at a mounting campaign on the Hill to hasten U.S. gas exports, saying there’s no reason to think gas shipments would weaken Russia’s leverage over Europe’s energy supply. But exporting American shale gas could drive up prices for consumers and manufacturers at home, they warned, while encouraging the spread of fracking and lessening incentives for power companies to abandon coal-fired power.

The lines of this debate are being drawn sharply and clearly as the storm clouds gather:

“The main beneficiaries of allowing more exportation of fossil fuels would be the companies that produce those fossil fuels,” said an opinion piece published Thursday on the environmental website Grist.

Gas supporters showed no signs of giving up, however. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) led Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in filing a bill Thursday that would order the approval of a host of export applications awaiting Energy Department approval. That came on top of bills filed earlier in the week by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Gardner’s rival in this year’s Colorado Senate race.

Read the full story here on Politico.

Need we mention this would be an excellent time to call your Congressperson? Find your Congressperson’s information right here if you don’t already have them on speed-dial.

Germany: “Decline of fossil fuel power generation is irreversible”

March 5, 2014

Solar hot water heater. Source: EnergyBible

While we here in the United States face such grossly backwards energy policies as those that enable fracking companies to place shale gas operations 300 feet away from schools, daycare centers and playgrounds — inspiring the launch of the Protect Our Children campaign — they’re getting it right in Germany.

In Germany the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency, called “energiewinde,” is surging forward with such force that German energy giant RWE has posted huge losses and admitted it should have focused more on renewable energy. Read all about it in today’s post by Giles Parkinson on RenewEconomy:

Germany: Decline of fossil fuel generation is irreversible

German energy giant RWE has taken a massive loss of €2.8 billion – it’s first loss in 60 years – after admitting it got its strategy wrong, and should have focused more on renewable and distributed energy rather than conventional fossil fuels.

RWE, like other major German utilities, has spent much of the past decade fighting against the country’s “energiewende”, the energy transition that is seeing it dump nuclear energy and transform the electricity system of Europe’s biggest manufacturing economy to one dominated by renewables.


Peter Terium

Last night, Peter Terium, who has been CEO for less than two years, conceded that the company had got it wrong. He admitted that the change in electricity markets, which has seen earnings from conventional generation gutted by the impact of solar and wind energy, was “unstoppable”. It was now time to change strategy, and focus on what the electricity market will look like in the future.

“I grant that we have made mistakes,” Terium said in a prepared speech to a media conference accompanying his result. “We were late entering into the renewables market – possibly too late.”

Analysts have been pointing this out for years. Indeed, the big three German utilities have accounted for just 7 per cent of the renewable energy installations that now account for more than one quarter of the country’s generation, and which have transformed the market. Most renewable capacity has been installed by home and industrial consumers, and smaller and smarter energy companies.

Instead, RWE ploughed on with coal and gas. Now, Terium says, it is making  less and less money from its conventional power stations, and it is closing nearly 7GW of capacity. “This trend will continue in the next few years and it is irreversible,” he says.

Conventional power stations are being driven out by solar PV, particularly during peak load, and the huge expansion of renewables has pushed the market price of electricity to less than €37 per megawatt-hour, where it is virtually impossible to operate conventional power stations economically.

The question is what to do now. Terium says it is not all bad news, because much of the new plant that has been installed is highly flexible; designed to fit in and around a renewables-dominated grid. For instance, he said, the entire 10,000MW capacity of power stations in the Rhenish region can be reduced and increased again by about 5,000 megawatts within 30 minutes. (Interestingly, RWE cut is Co2 emissions from generation by 9% in the last year).

However, to secure its future, RWE – as was revealed in this insightful piece by Energy Post’s Karel Beckman – is going to focus more on future technologies: renewable energy, distributed generation and smart, enabling systems.

Terium says centralised generation is losing its primacy and the decentralised energy world needs an ‘integrated energy manager’.

They are looking at “decentralised energy bundles” for small and medium-sized municipal utilities and sees electric vehicles as a core element of the energy system, because of their ability to serve as decentralised energy storage units.

The company is offering solar PV systems and wind turbines to allow local energy communities.

Read the full story here. Thanks to an alert protector on the Pipeline Protectors list for this news.

Four Arrested in Civil Disobedience Action Protesting Cove Point

February 27, 2014

Western Marylanders Arrested at Cumberland Courthouse in Protest Aimed at Stopping Cove Point Fracked Gas Exports

Civil disobedients before being arrested today in Cumberland, Maryland

Local minister joins western Maryland students and resident for peaceful sit-in demanding a full federal Environmental Impact Statement for $3.8 billion Cove Point project that would fast-track fracking. Photo: Chesapeake Climate.

CUMBERLAND, MARYLAND—A local Unitarian minister and three western Maryland residents were arrested just before noon today outside the Allegany County Courthouse in Cumberland for peacefully protesting Virginia-based Dominion Resources’ plan to build a liquefied natural gas export facility at Cove Point in southern Maryland. The protesters blocked the courthouse entrance to demand justice in the controversial federal handling of the massive $3.8 billion project, which would take nearly a billion cubic feet of gas per day from fracking wells across the Appalachian region, liquefy it on the Chesapeake Bay, and export it to Asia.

Today’s nonviolent civil disobedience action followed fast on the heels of the Stop Cove Point protest in Baltimore last week, on February 19th. With over 800 participants, the Stop Cove Point protest has been called “the largest ever environmental protest in Baltimore’s history.”

Terry Ellen

Reverend Terence Ellen

“I am here today as both a citizen of this beautiful state and as a minister deeply concerned that the proposed Cove Point gas export facility would take us in exactly the wrong direction,” said Reverend Terence Ellen, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Greater Cumberland. “It is inconceivable to me that a project so huge and so potentially harmful to our health and welfare would not even receive a full Environmental Impact Statement. We’re sitting in today because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is failing to serve the public.”

Joining Rev. Ellen were three young people, including two native residents of Cumberland who are students at Frostburg University and a local Frostburg resident who has seen the impacts of fracking elsewhere. With signs reading “Don’t Bring Fracking to Western Maryland” and “This Is Our Public Comment!” they specifically called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct a full and fair Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Cove Point. They also appealed to Governor Martin O’Malley and members of Congress to break their silence and join them in demanding this most rigorous and participatory type of environmental review.

“I am risking arrest today in opposition to Cove Point and the pressure it would place on my home counties and on the mid-Atlantic at large to frack for gas,” said Benjamin Brown, an undergraduate student at Frostburg University and native of Cumberland. “I cannot remain idle as the places and things I love—fishing with my father, hiking with my friends, the splendor of these mountains—are exploited. I give up my temporary freedom in the hope that all leaders of our communities, including Governor Martin O’Malley, will rise to protect our collective future.”

All participants expressed deep concern that Dominion’s Cove Point plan would incite enormous pressure to open western Maryland to industrial fracking wells and new gas infrastructure, harming public health and transforming the rural landscape that sustains local livelihoods.

Desiree Bullard

Desiree Bullard

“An export facility at Cove Point would simply be another addition to a fossil fuel model that has drastically failed us,” said Desiree Bullard, a Cumberland native and a graduate student at Frostburg University. “The only way Dominion can possibly justify this plan is by hiding the truth. We can’t match Dominion’s money or influence, which is why we are peacefully sitting in today, appealing to our leaders for an Environmental Impact Statement that assesses the full impacts of Cove Point.”

“A thorough Environmental Impact Statement would undoubtedly prove that fracking, drilling and extracting is not a sustainable path for our communities,” said Gabriel Adam Echeverri of Frostburg. “I stand in solidarity with the residents of Cove Point, with the residents of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Ohio, and with my neighbors in opposition to any corporation that would take all for profit and leave nothing for progeny.”

Dominion’s Cove Point export plan has sparked growing opposition across Maryland in recent months, drawing a record crowd of environmental protesters to Baltimore last week as hearings began at the Maryland Public Service Commission. The state must sign off on Dominion’s permit to build a 130-megawatt gas-fired power plant to run on-site liquefaction operations, and the Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal this Saturday in Calvert County.

Gabriel Adam Echeverri

Gabriel Adam Echeverri

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also weighing Dominion’s plan but, to date, has rejected calls for a full Environmental Impact Statement made by dozens of environmental, health and faith leaders, Maryland citizens, and Maryland’s Attorney General. Advocates contend that a less thorough and less participatory “Environmental Assessment” would fail to account for the domino effect of rising gas prices, expanded fracking, new pipelines and compressor stations and, ultimately, significant new carbon pollution that the Cove Point project could trigger region-wide.

See statements by the four activists on why they engaged in civil disobedience over Cove Point: “Why Four Maryland Citizens Risked Arrest in Cumberland to Stop Cove Point.”

Photos from the protest are available here. The citizens arrested will be available for interviews pending their release.

View the news release online: “Western Marylanders Arrested at Cumberland Courthouse in Protest of Cove Point Fracked Gas Export Plan

For more information contact:

Kelly Trout 240-396-2022 (office), 717-439-0346 (cell),

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Sues to Stop Fracking Near His Home

February 24, 2014

Evidently Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon — the largest fracked gas producer in the U.S. — likes his home quiet, his air clean, and his property values pristine. So he’s suing to stop the shale gas operation next door. For years, he’s used his bully pulpit to attack fracking regulations as “dysfunctional” restraints on economic growth. But when the industry comes close to him, suddenly he wants more than just regulation. He wants to stop it.

In September 2012, while Rex Tillerson prepared his keynote speech praising the fracking juggernaut on the closing day of the “Shale Gas Insight” convention, protesters outside confronted shale gas industry conventioneers with signs such as, “I’m here to lie to you and exploit your community.” The nonviolent protesters experienced aggressive behavior from the police, who choked a legal observer, pulled the hair of a young man of color while arresting him; and shoved Rabbi Mordechai Liebling and elderly Rabbi Arthur Waskow roughly outside the police partition. Rex Tillerson’s keynote speech was delayed at least an hour by the protesters:

"Sunrise Intervention" protesters confront shale gas industry conventioneers in Philadelphia in September 2012, delaying Rex Tillerson's keynote address. Photo: The People's Record.
Photo of the Sunrise Intervention 2012, at the “Shale Gas Insight” industry convention (the day after Shale Gas Outrage), from The People’s Record: “Brilliant Protest Tactics: Learn From Philly.”
Now, as if to prove the protesters correct and himself duplicitous, Rex Tillerson himself has joined in a lawsuit claiming that the noise and air pollution from fracking water trucks will reduce his property values.
                                                                                                                                              Unlike ordinary people painfully dislocated by the shale gas industry, Rex Tillerson, the biggest fracker in the world, has the resources to sue the industry. Contrast his rich and powerful position with the people of Riverdale, in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, who were evicted — their entire community destroyed — so that the shale gas industry could withdraw hundreds of millions of gallons from the Susquehanna River where the Riverdale community had stood. There they had traded babysitting, taken care of each other, and enjoyed the river’s quiet beauty… and there the bulldozers came. Despite one of the longest blockades in anti-fracking history in the U.S., they didn’t have a chance.

Rex Tillerson may have a chance — but his hypocrisy is not lost on anyone.

Fracking is never just “frac’ing,” the fracturing stage of shale gas drilling. As Rex Tillerson has suddenly personally discovered, this is an industry whose construction of well pads, roads, pipelines, compressor stations; whose waste dumping, waste leaking, water withdrawal, water transport, chemical transport, chemical leaks, radioactive toxic salt brine dumping, fracked gas processing, diesel exhaust, methane leaks, VOC emissions, radioactive drill cuttings dumping, extreme noise and crime ARE what ordinary people mean when they say “fracking.”

Re-blogged from Daily Kos, by FishOutofWater on February 21st, 2014:
Rex Tillerson finally tells the truth about fracking. It lowers property values.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson may be the world’s biggest fracker (Exxon is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S.) but he isn’t stupid. He’ll frack my backyard and tell me it’s good for me and he’ll frack your place too, but don’t let any frackers near his home. He knows damn well that fracking lowers property values, but he wouldn’t admit it until the frackers came to his place. He just joined a lawsuit to stop the fracking because it would lower the value of his property.

Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.

When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012.

Thousands of North Carolinians, like me, living in Moore, Lee, Chatham, Orange, Wake and Durham counties want to keep fracking out of our communities because fracking is incompatible with biotech, IT, retirement, higher education, world class hospitals, and the wonderful farm to market movement that has developed in central North Carolina. Our properties, our universities and schools, our farms, our retirement communities, our hospitals and our businesses deserve the same protection from loss of property values and environmental damage as Rex Tillerson’s. And our children deserve clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Read the post on Daily Kos with 130 comments — and feel free to comment below, as well. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and more: we’re all drawing closer together in a united struggle against the extreme arrogance of Chevron, Exxon and the like, who have lost control of public opinion just like they lost control of the fire that incinerated a worker thirteen days ago.

Body of shale gas worker killed by Chevron fire found; residents angered by PR pizza

February 20, 2014
The body of the worker killed by the Chevron shale gas well explosion and fire in Greene County, Pennsylvania has been found. His name is Ian McKee. He was 27 years old.
More than 12 hours after a blast that “sounded like a jet engine going 5 feet above your house,” as one neighbor put it, a fire continued to rise into the air, causing a hissing sound that could be heard a quarter-mile away.

The February 11th Chevron disaster occurred in an area long accustomed to extractive industries. Some western PA residents were shocked when state environmental regulators (PA DEP) claimed to be “grateful” that no one lived within half a mile of the dangerous explosions, flames, heat and smoke — even while that same DEP continues to fight for fracking well pads to be set back as little as 300 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds, and vulnerable clean streams.

Still, many residents who lived close to the out-of-control Chevron fire in Greene County have been slow to anger.

Not any more. The response by Chevron, after the fire burned out of control for four days and continues to emit gas and heat in the area, earned it this headline from CNN:

Some Pa. residents near blown Chevron gas well finding pizza gift hard to swallow

The CNN report, by Allie Malloy and Lauren Morton, came out on Wednesday, February 19th:
(CNN) – Some Pennsylvania residents who live near a Chevron natural gas well that exploded, killing a worker, are getting compensation of sorts from the corporation.
Free pizza and sodas.

Chevron is dispensing 100 gift certificates for pizza and soft drinks to those in the area of Greene County where the February 11 explosion sparked a fire that burned for four days. An employee at Bobtown Pizza confirmed the corporation’s order of gift certificates.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown, according to Jeff Rhodes, Greene County 911 Emergency Coordinator.

The blast killed a worker and injured another, and although the fire is out gas and heat are still being emitted into the atmosphere, Rhodes said.

Chevron’s edible outreach is not sitting well with some recipients.

“Worst apology ever: Sorry our fracking well exploded. Here’s a free pizza,” one angry Twitter user wrote Tuesday.

“Nice community relations: if you are frightened by fire and explosion, relax, have a pizza!” another tweet stated.

“Huge Slap in the Face”

One resident who said he wished to remain anonymous because of Chevron’s strong presence in the area told CNN that he received a certificate on Sunday while he and his family were out. He said it was the first and last time they had heard from Chevron regarding the incident.
“It felt like a huge slap in the face,” the resident told CNN.
“I do not feel that they’ve addressed anything. I haven’t even called their hotline yet because I’m just too upset. A pizza coupon? I mean come on!”

Residents to Move Out: Ongoing Dislocation in Shalefield Communities

The resident who spoke to CNN said he plans to move his family as a result of the incident.
“We’re moving as soon as we can. That’s not their only well near our house. It’s just not safe,” he said.
In an update published Tuesday on its website, Chevron said the situation at the well “remains serious and teams are working around the clock to safely approach and shut the well.”

Shale Gas Fires Kill Workers in Pennsylvania; Governor Praises Industry’s Safety Record

Eve Andrews of Grist reports, in “Just a Fracking Well Exploding Into Flames — Nothing to See Here!“:

Another gas well fire on the shale in Indiana Township, Pa., killed two people in July 2010. Yet another, also in the same region, caused three more deaths in February 2011.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has been a consistent advocate for fracking in the state. He’s refused to levy significant taxes on gas companies and is pushing for the reversal of both a state Supreme Court ruling and former Gov. Ed Rendell’s (D) executive order that protect many regions of the state, including parks, from drilling. In spite of the supersized natural gas bonfire in his backyard, Corbett continues to laud the safety of the fracking industry.

As this blog post goes to press, Chevron’s stock is going up:
  1. Chevron Corporation

    NYSE: CVX - Feb 20 11:15 AM ET

    114.50+0.90 (0.79%)

Major oil train derailment spills about 7,500 gallons of crude near Pittsburgh

February 14, 2014

Twenty-one cars of a long, 118-car train carrying crude oil and liquified natural gas (propane, or LPG) derailed yesterday morning in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, about 36 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Emergency personnel examine the wreckage of a train derailment near Vandergrift, Pennsylvania February 13, 2014. (Reuters / Jason Cohn)

Emergency personnel examine the wreckage of a train derailment near Vandergrift, Pennsylvania February 13, 2014. Photo: Jason Cohn, Reuters

The train is owned by Norfolk Southern, which said that thousands of gallons of crude oil will need to be cleaned up. Nineteen of the derailed cars were carrying crude oil, and two carried propane (LPG). Norfolk Southern said that four of the cars have been leaking crude oil since the derailment occurred shortly before 8 AM on Thursday, February 13th, according to the Pittsburgh television station WTAE in “Train carrying oil, propane derails in Vandergrift.”

Initially Norfolk Southern estimated about 1,000 gallons; then it refused to say, but sources told WTAE that 3 to 4,000 gallons had spilled from four cars. Later yesterday afternoon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokespeople clarified that 15,000 gallons had spilled so far:

Four of the cars were punctured and are leaking heavy crude oil – three of them have released only a few gallons. The fourth car split open and released about half its load, or up to 15,000 gallons. Deputy Sec. Dana Aunkst says when the oil spilled, it “tarred up in the snow” so it did not spread.

Source: “Train carrying crude oil derails in western PA,” StateImpact PA, by Marie Cusick and Katie Colaneri.

UPDATE 4:54 pm Friday, February 14th: PA DEP has revised its earlier statement, according to StateImpact, clarifying that the entire rail car carries about 15,000 gallons. So, about half that load means an estimated 7,500 gallons spilled. We revised our headline and inserted this update as soon as we learned about the clarification. Norfolk Southern continues to claim that about three to four thousand gallons of crude oil have spilled.

Some of the cars struck a building where metal products are made. Westmoreland County officials said the accident occurred on a rail line between Vandergrift and East Vandergrift, near the MSI Corporation property.

Photos: Train derailment in Vandergrift

Observers Alarmed

Another news story, “Penn train derailment leaks thousands of gallons of oil, sends car into building,”  commented that the train, derailed as it was making its way across Pennsylvania, resulted in “spilling thousands of gallons of oil and alarming observers who have called for stricter safety standards on trains hauling hazardous material.”

Some close-at-hand observers were quite alarmed:

Residents said the derailment was tremendous enough to shake buildings and could be heard throughout the surrounding area. One of the loose cars slammed into a business, destroying equipment that is used to mill steel blocks.

I heard a strange noise, a hollow, screeching sound,” witness Ray Cochran, whose home oversees the railroad tracks, told Reuters. “I looked out the window and saw three or four tankers turn over and one of them ran into the building.”

From “Penn. train derailment leaks thousands of gallons of oil, sends car into building.”

Call to Action

Consider yourselves alarmed, observers, wherever you live. If you live in a rural area or small town anywhere that these mile-long oil trains travel, please call your town or county’s governing body today expressing that alarm, and urging that these unsafe trains be halted.

If you live in a larger city, including Pittsburgh, Philadelpha, Chicago or Albany, consider making a Valentine’s call to your City Councilmember to demand a moratorium on the oil trains (not just on Valentine’s Day, but any time this week.) And wherever you live — this is a national and international issue — a call to your state and federal legislators demanding not just for safeguards, but a moratorium on these dangerous trains now — would be well-timed this week.

Talking Points

1. This is the seventh recent major oil train derailment since last June, when a train carrying Bakken Shale oil derailed, exploded, and incinerated 15 acres of downtown Lac Megantic, killing 47 people.

2. Officials say they do not know why the derailments are happening. Therefore the trains should be stopped until they do know.

3. In particular, the DOT-111 cars, known to be thin, easily punctured, overly rigid, and unsafe, should be taken off the tracks immediately. No compromising safety for profit.

4. The Philadelphia derailment of explosive Bakken Shale crude oil involved stronger, less easily punctured 101 trains. That suggests that if the DOT- 111 trains had derailed over the Schuylkill River on that train bridge, the derailed cars would have exploded, burning a power station and gas pipelines in an expanding fire which would have burned universities, likely nearby hospitals including Children’s Hospital and the vast UPenn medical complex, residences, and a major highway, the Schuylkill Expressway; all while sending oil into the river below.

5. Officials are still testing the Bakken Shale crude oil to see whether it has too much gas in it and whether it should be re-classified as a more dangerous gas, rather than as ordinary crude. Obviously there should be a moratorium at least until the final test results are in and hazardous cargo can be properly classified.

6. Those who have inspected several of the wrecks have said that when oil trains have exploded and burned, it may be the explosion which causes the derailment and not the other way around. With cargo so intensely flammable and explosive, why wait for a major disaster, a full-scale catastrophe, to occur? Why not act now?

7. Over one million gallons of crude oil spilled from oil trains in 2013, with a total of 1.15 million gallons. That’s more than spilled in the years from 1975 to 2010 combined, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Protect our waterways!

8. This oil does not “have to get to where it needs to go,” as NPR cheerfully framed the derailment story last night. The oil has no needs. The oil is happy underground, in the shale, in the sands, in the earth. The oil, in the process of being extracted, transported, processed, transported again, and finally burned, is destroying our climate.

9. Have you ever seen solar panels spill? Have you ever seen wind turbines explode and incinerate 15 acres, killing 47 people? Where is the national climate action plan?

10. The town of Cassleton was evacuated; and a 5-mile radius around Casselton was urged to evacuate, when that oil train exploded and sent a fireball high into the sky on December 30th, 2013. Yesterday only 35 people were evacuated in the tiny town of Vandergrift… because the accident didn’t happen “in town.” Ask your local officials: what’s the evacuation plan for an oil train derailment within five miles of you?


The ongoing spike in derailments, explosions, fires and spills from the surge in crude-by-rail is completely unacceptable. No one’s life is expendable, rural or urban. Neither are our waterways or our climate. Resist the oil trains. And take the DOT-111 cars off the tracks immediately.

Future: Look for future posts related to resisting fossil fuel transportation in the Philadelphia area. The Philadelaphia Inquirer reports that the derailed Pittsburgh area train was carrying Canadian crude oil bound for Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The particular oil tankers which derailed were headed for an asphalt plant in Paulsboro, New Jersey.


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