Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Homeowners Join Lawsuit Against Arkema

As Hurricane Harvey was wrecking havoc on Southeast Texas, the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby experienced a power loss after it was inundated floodwaters, triggering explosions and fires. Poisonous fumes allegedly spread over a several mile area surrounding the plant. Although Arkema officials maintained it was a non-toxic irritant, residents within a 1.5 mile radius were evacuated for a week. Upon returning, they were advised to wear protective clothing and drink bottled water.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Harvey Triggers Major Gasoline Spill in Texas

What were the environmental impacts of Hurricane Harvey?

As Southeast Texas continues to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the immediate and long term environmental impacts will be a key consideration. In particular, the storm triggered failures numerous leaks from petrochemical storage tanks into area waterways.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Texas Oil Sector Bounces Back from Harvey

The Texas oil industry is rapidly recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, with most of the refineries up and running again and the major ports in the state returning to normal operations. As has widely been reported, after Harvey made landfall, up to one-third of the nation’s refinery capacity was offline, halting delivery of Texas petro-products to the Northeast through the Colonial Pipeline.

Now, the recovery in oil production has been quicker than many analysts predicted. Moreover, as operations ramped up, prices for gasoline eased up a bit. As of September 9, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Texas Conservation Plan for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Under Pressure

The Texas Comptroller’s office recently sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stating that the Texas Conservation Plan for the dunes sagebrush lizard is being threatened by companies that mine the fine-grain sand oil producers use for hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Endangered Sagebrush Lizard

In 2010, the FWS proposed listing the lizard as an endangered species because of the loss of habitat due to sand mining to support oil and gas fracking and ranching operations in the Permian Basin. Industry groups pushed back, however, claiming that an official listing would hinder much needed oil and gas production through the use of fracking techniques in old wells. The Comptroller’s office, which has oversight of endangered species, then worked with oil industry participants to craft a voluntary plan to protect the sand lizard’s habitat.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Solar Power Rising in West Texas

How do solar farms contribute to energy production?

Although Texas has long been the heart of the oil-patch, alternative forms of energy production  have been making inroads in the state, particularly in West Texas. While the rise of wind turbines has made the region a worldwide leader in wind energy, solar power has also become an important part of the mix.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Interior Secretary Signs Order to Expedite Oil and Gas Drilling on Federal Lands

As part of the Trump Administration’s effort to increase U.S. energy production, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently signed an order calling for faster and more efficient oil and gas permitting on federal lands. It goes without saying that environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are opposed to the order, calling it a giveaway to oil and gas interests.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

EPA Finalizes TSCA Inventory "Reset" Rule

The 2016 Lautenberg amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) require EPA to designate chemical substances on the TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory as either “active” or “inactive” in U.S. commerce. To accomplish that, EPA is establishing a retrospective electronic notification of chemical substances on the TSCA Inventory that were manufactured including imported for nonexempt commercial purposes during the 10-year period ending on June 21, 2016, with provision to also allow notification by processors. EPA will use these notifications to distinguish active substances from inactive substances.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Texas Railroad Commission Gets Funding Boost

The state legislature recently approved a substantial budget increase for the Texas Railroad Commission.  The state’s oil and gas industry regulator is tasked with plugging over 9,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, monitoring oil and gas operations, overseeing pipelines and regulating gas utilities.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shale Oil and Gas Development in Texas: Pros and Cons

Although the development of oil and gas has been a boon to the economy in Texas, a recent study published by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST), suggest that it has had an adverse impact on land, air, water and infrastructure throughout the state.

"This report shows what we've learned in Texas about the impacts from shale oil and gas development, and I hope others can benefit from our experience," said Christine Ehlig-Economides, task force chair.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump Administration Intends to Unveil Plan to Trim Regulations

The Trump administration intends to unveil this week a plan to trim regulations it believes constrain U.S. manufacturing growth, potentially affecting environmental permits, worker safety and labor rules, an administration official said. The U.S. Commerce Department's regulations "hit list" recommendations follow more than three months of study and consultation with industry on ways to streamline regulations and ease burdens on manufacturing firms. A Trump administration official with knowledge of the recommendations to be sent to the White House said the Environmental Protection Agency's complex permitting rules will be a key focus, echoing comments to Reuters by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last month. The 171 public comments submitted by companies and industry groups offer a strong hint to priorities for Commerce's streamlining efforts, with numerous industry groups and firms complaining that EPA air quality permit rules for new facilities are often redundant. The report will analyze the submissions and "will identify a lot of problems and lay out ways to take responsible actions," said the official, who declined to be identified by name.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Comparison of Executive Orders 13771 and 13777 to Texas H.B. 1290

I.  Analysis of Federal Executive Orders (“EO”) 13771 and 13777

A. Executive Order (“EO”) 13771 Summary

1. Overview of EO 13771

On January 30, President Donald Trump issued EO 13771, which requires executive branch agencies to repeal two rules for every one issued. Entitled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” EO 13771 also directs that all new agency regulations promulgated promulgated during fiscal year 2017 should not impose a net increase in costs.

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