Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Friday, September 30, 2016

The TCEQ Was Busy Last Year

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is our state’s version of the federal level Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is in charge of regulating more than 571,300 public and private facilities and/or individuals in Texas that affect, or have the potential to significantly affect, the environment.

The TCEQ has the authority to levy penalties of up to $25,000/day/violation in 26 environmental program areas. Each year hundreds of businesses across the state end up tangling with the TCEQ, facing off with regulators who claim they are violating our state’s myriad environmental protection rules.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Report States that Not All Oil Spills in Texas Are Investigated by Regulators

Are all oil spills in Texas investigated?

Newly released documents give evidence that The Railroad Commission of Texas, charged with the task of investigating every report of an oil spill in the state, has not been following protocol. This information came to light as Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso), concerned about potential catastrophic floods, requested government records on the matter.

Being in full compliance with the regulations of the state of Texas is not optional, nor is it simple. If you have concerns about your company's environmental impact and whether you are meeting all necessary requirements, it is essential that you consult with

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Colorado Fines Texas Company Over Illegal Wells

What are the penalties for not complying with a state energy regulator?

In July, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fined Texas-based Atom Petroleum for continuing to operate an oil and gas well after being issued a Cease and Desist order. The commission slapped Atom with a $239, 496 fine, and is requiring the company to take a number of corrective actions.

Atom partnered with Hoshi Energy, LLC in the purchase of 40 wells in bankruptcy proceedings of the previous owner, Red Mesa Holdings in 2015. Prior to beginning operations, Atom and Hoshi also failed to pay Colorado $360,000 in financial assurances. Inspectors found drilling had begun in January, however, and the state determined the drilling activities posed a severe risk to public health and the environment.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Billion Dollar Oil Lawsuit: An Example of Why Venue Matters

The location where a trial takes place matters. There is no better example of this in the gas and oil context than the ongoing legal battle over Chevron’s operations in the Ecuadorean jungle.

In February 2011, a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador determined Chevron was liable for decades of pollution and social ills related to its oil business in the country. It awarded the villagers who had brought the case $18 billion in damages. Chevron appealed the decision, and the judgement was reduced to $9.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

TransCanada Sues U.S. for Rejecting Keystone XL Pipeline

Why did The US reject the Keystone XL pipeline project? 

In November 2015, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, claiming it would not help the U.S. economy or enhance the Nation's energy security and that the project would expand carbon emissions. Now, TransCanada has filed a $15 billion arbitration claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to recoup costs and damages the company allegedly suffered.

TransCanada contends that denying the Keystone XL permit was politically motivated and that the decision lacked validity.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is Oil the Next Target for Tobacco Like Litigation?

In 1998, after years of legal skirmishes, the attorneys general from 46 states won a landmark, $200 billion settlement from the tobacco industry. The huge pot of money was divided up between the states, and used to fund tobacco cessation programs, fill budget gaps, and line the pockets of private attorneys that had assisted the attorneys general. States and attorneys viewed the settlement as such a success that ever since then there has been constant chatter in the legal community speculating about what industry will be the next Big Tobacco? Who can the states sue to get their next windfall?

Over the past few months, it has become clear that the new target is the oil industry. Fortunately, it is not at all clear that the oil industry will be as easy of a target as the tobacco industry was.  

The past decade has seen many unsuccessful lawsuits filed by plaintiffs against oil and gas producers arguing that the industry is responsible for climate change.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

EPA Unveils New Methane Emissions Rules

What is the extent of methane emissions in the U.S. oil and gas industry?

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new rule designed to curb methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. The goal is to prevent 11 million tons of "carbon dioxide equivalent" emissions by 2025 from new or modified oil and gas wells. The EPA also plans to regulate existing oil rigs, well pads and auxiliary equipment after further study of emissions from these sources.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Texas Supreme Court Limits Cities' Role in Emissions

Can cities in Texas enforce state level environmental regulations?

In May, the Texas Supreme Court invalidated criminal enforcement provisions of Houston's air quality ordinance.  In particular, the court struck down stipulations that allowed for fines up to $2,000 a day for violations of state environmental regulations.  A requirement that certain facilities register with the city and also pay a fee was also invalidated.

Challenge by BCCA

The ordinance was challenged by BCCA Appeal Group Inc., a business coalition that was comprised of companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Record Breaking Settlement in BP Oil Spill Case Approved

How much with the oil spill cost BP?

In 2010, one of the largest environmental disasters in history took place off the coast of the United States: the BP oil spill.  In April of that year, an oilrig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.  The accident killed 11 workers and caused millions of gallons of oil to be released into the ocean.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

States Push Back Against BLM

Do the states have authority over oil and gas activity on federal lands?

The battle between a number of states and The Bureau of Land Management over the regulation of oil and gas on federal lands presses on. In 2015, a U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction blocking the implementation of more stringent rules related to underground injections, including fracking.

More recently,

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Number of Energy Leases on Federal Land Continues to Fall

What is the Obama Administration's position on drilling on federal lands?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released data showing the number of oil and natural gas leases on federal land fell last year, continuing a trend that began in 2008. Moreover, the number of unused drilling permits is at an all time high.

Reasons for Falling Energy Production

Some observers argue that the Obama Administration is squandering the shale renaissance by not promoting drilling on U.S. lands.

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