Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mineral Owners, Oil and Gas Industry Vying Over Property Rights

While shale drilling has caused a boom in the production of natural gas and oil, it has raised a number of concerns, not the least of which is a struggle over property rights between mineral owners and the oil and gas industry. In fact, some observers believe this fight is headed to the floor of the Texas legislature in its 2017 session.  

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Proposed Balmorhea Drilling Faces Scrutiny

What affect will oil drilling have on San Solomon Springs?

In September, Houston-based Apache Corp. announced the discovery of 15 billion barrels of oil in the Permian Basin near Balmorhea State Park. The park, a popular tourist destination, is home to a famous spring-fed pool. Based on its discovery, Apache intends to digs as many as 3,000 wells over the next 20 years.

Once the company began leasing land and testing wells, however, residents began to air their concerns that the drilling would contaminate San Salomon Springs, and

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Look at Groundwater Contamination in Texas

What is TCEQ doing to reduce groundwater contamination?

While cases of groundwater contamination in Texas have been on the decline over the last two decades, a recently published report showed that these incidents rose in 2015 compared to the previous year. In its annual "Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report," the Texas Groundwater Projection Committee (TGPC) documented 276 new cases last year. This is slightly higher than in 2014, when the group reported 272 new cases of groundwater contamination.

Sources of Groundwater Contamination

While there are numerous sources of groundwater contamination, the leading culprits are oil and gas drillers, chemical manufacturers, gas stations, and even laundry and dry cleaning services. Moreover, the most common pollutants found were gasoline, diesel and petro-products.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

The San Jacinto Waste Pits Revisited

What has the EPA proposed for remediating toxic waste near the San Jacinto River?

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal to remove over 200,000 cubic yards of dioxins and other pollutants from a site near the San Jacinto River in Harris County. At an estimated cost of $97 million, cleaning up the site may allay the longstanding environmental and health concerns of community members. At the same time, the proposed remediation plan is also stirring controversy.

Pros and Cons of the Cleanup

Since 2011, the site has been contained to some extent by way of a temporary cap that was installed by companies responsible for dumping the waste. However, the cap has needed repairs over the years, the most recent of which was for a 20 foot hole discovered by divers in December 2015.

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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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