Environmental and Energy Law Blog

Monday, February 20, 2017

Texas Supreme Court Set to Hear Mineral Trespass Case

The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear a dispute to determine whether an oil producer can drill through a mineral lease without a lessee's permission. The case involves a dispute between Lightning Oil and E&P Onshore LLC, a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

Anadarko intends to drill horizontally through property on which Lightning owns rights to oil and gas to reach a nearby oil and gas reserve. Lightning claims that the proposed drilling would trespass through its  mineral estate, however, Anadarko argues that the mineral estate lies in the subsurface, and that it has obtained permission to drill from the surface owner.

Lightning is seeking to overturn a lower appellate court ruling in favor of Anadarko, claiming that decision ignored its legally valid mineral estate and effectively removed real property status from mineral estates.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Congress Rescinds Rules Requiring Energy Companies to Disclose Foreign Government Payments

The U.S. Congress recently voted to rescind a rule requiring energy companies to report payments to foreign governments for the right to develop oil, gas and mineral assets. Lawmakers relied on the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission rule, a seldom used law that gives Congress the authority to overturn agency regulations.


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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Prospects Look Good for Texas Oil Patch in 2017

Buoyed by a rise in oil prices and forecasts of the Trump administration's pro energy policies, the prospects in 2017 for the Texas oil patch are bright. And the Dallas Federal Reserve's energy survey for the fourth quarter of 2016 bears this out.

The Fed's survey indicated that energy activity spiked from 27.7 to 40.1, an indication energy production will surge in the coming year.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Energy Protestors Coming to West Texas

Back in November, we reported on the concerns of community and environmental groups over the oil and natural gas drilling slated for the Permian Basin near Balmorhea State Park. There are presently two production initiatives in play: Apache Corp's plan to sink about 3,000 wells over the next 20 years to tap the oil and gas reserves, and a pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) from the basin to Mexico.

Now, taking a page from playbook of the Dakota Access pipeline protestors, opponents of energy production intend to open camps near Bog Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and Balmorhea.

Read more . . .

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Trump Taps Rex Tillerson to Head State Department

In a widely reported and controversial move, President-Elect Donald Trump tapped ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Tex Tillerson to run the state department.

“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State,” Trump said in a statement.

Tillerson started his career with Exxon in 1975 as a production engineer and has since held a number of internationally focused positions that have enabled him to cultivate relationships in the Arab world, South America, and most notably Russia. In fact, his long standing relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised concerns among lawmakers and media pundits alike.

Nonetheless, the pick is another in what some are calling Trump's transactional approach to domestic and foreign policy.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

EPA Issues Report on Fracking's Impact on Groundwater

Does hydraulic fracturing harm drinking water?

As a result of technological innovations such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling, Texas has experienced a boom in the production of natural gas and oil over the last decade. At the same time, these techniques have stirred controversy as opponents contend there has been collateral environmental damage such as groundwater contamination, increased air pollution, and even earthquakes.

Read more . . .

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.  

Read more . . .

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

Read more . . .

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.

Read more . . .

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.

Read more . . .

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.


Read more . . .

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