View by Date
Printable Version of This Page

April 24, 2015

Range’s water-on-fire defamation lawsuit can proceed, high court says

Texas Supreme Court lets suit stand against Lipsky but not wife, consultant

Range Resources can move ahead with its defamation lawsuit against Parker County landowner Steven Lipsky who released a video to the EPA and media showing himself lighting water from a garden hose on fire, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court upheld an appeals court ruling that dismissed Range’s defamation claims against Lipsky’s wife, Shyla, and Alisa Rich, an environmental contractor the couple hired, but not against Steven Lipsky.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 24, 2015

Shell’s Odyssey pipeline system delivers crude from deep-water platform

Joint venture with Genesis Energy includes 120-mile pipeline network

The Odyssey pipeline system, operated jointly by Shell Pipeline Co. and Genesis Energy, has transported the first crude oil from a deep-water floating production system in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell announced Friday.

LLOG Exploration Co. operates the production system, Delta House Platform, in deep waters with subsea infrastructure that taps into three Mississippi Canyon fields.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 23, 2015

Craddick in DC: Texas regulators trying to figure out earthquake issue

RRC’s Sitton announces public hearing plans on seismicity, oil and gas activities

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick testified in Washington Thursday that she and her fellow commissioners are “all trying to figure out” what the legal ramifications could be, given mounting evidence in Texas and Oklahoma that oil and gas activities sometimes trigger earthquakes.

“I think that’s what we’re all trying to figure out at this point,” Craddick, testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, told Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois. “It depends on modeling of the scientific study, as I’ve been advised. There’s not one best model at this point.”

Foster said he’d heard that Oklahomans worried how they’d recover damages if seismic activity from fracking-related wastewater disposal wells damaged their homes and property.

“Do individual homeowners have to sue someone who might have gone out of business?” he asked, wondering whether decades of drilling or injecting could someday prompt a sizeable earthquake.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 23, 2015

Fed: Collapse in oil prices slows Texas job growth

Video explains, “Texas lost nearly 12,000 jobs in March”

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 22, 2015

Abbott challenges EPA’s proposed regional haze rules

Says agency likes some states (California) better than others (Texas)

Gov. Greg Abbott protested in comments to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Air Planning Section that is proposed rule to combat “regional haze” and efforts to force a federal implementation plan on Texas are unlawful, his office announced Wednesday.

Abbott, in comments submitted to the EPA, said the state already has its own implementation plan.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 22, 2015

King, representing Azle and Reno, seeks talk with RRC seismologist

Lawmaker wants Pearson’s views of SMU study finding quakes likely caused by oil, gas activity

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said Wednesday requested a meeting this week with the Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) seismologist to discuss a new study finding that oil and gas activities likely caused a swarm of earthquakes in his district.

The RRC, which also sent a letter yesterday requesting a briefing from a research team lead by Southern Methodist University (SMU) scientists, is trying to set up the meeting between King and RRC seismologist Craig Pearson, said commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 21, 2015

Earthquake study embraced by towns, doubted by industry

Railroad Commission’s seismologist counts himself among skeptics

A scientific study finding oil and gas operations are the most likely cause of earthquakes near the North Texas towns of Azle and Reno didn’t meet with the warmest embrace Tuesday from the industry or its regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission.

Environmental advocates and mayors from the towns rocked by a swarm of earthquakes, by contrast, welcomed the findings as confirmation of what they assumed all along.

Eleven researchers led by a team at Southern Methodist University (SMU) spent a year gathering evidence leading to the conclusion that a combination of wastewater injection and extraction of saltwater from natural gas wells likely produced dozens of quakes from late 2013 and to spring 2014.

Those findings and more appear in the journal Nature Communications under the title “Casual Factors for Seismicity Near Azle, Texas.” But the new research quickly drew skepticism from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), which sent a letter asking scientific investigators to brief commission staffers on the details of the study.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 21, 2015

SMU issues findings on Azle-area earthquakes

Seismologists: High volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater extraction from natural gas wells most likely culprits for 2013-2014 earthquakes

The full report in Nature Communications may be accessed online at http://dx.doi.org/ by entering the DOI number: 10.1038/ncomms7728.

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 20, 2015

TER: House grants HB 40 final passage, 125-20.

Bill gives Texas Railroad Commission, not cities, right to regulate subsurface oil, gas operations

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 17, 2015

Mighty Texas oil and gas industry prevails in HB 40

Critics predict cities could be stripped of rights to protect residents from hazards of urban oil and gas operations

The Texas oil and gas industry flexed its bulging biceps today as its friends in the Legislature fended off every attempt to preserve city regulatory powers over urban drilling operations that could be stripped away by House Bill 40.

The power of argument in favor of protecting churches, schools, nursing homes, parks, homeowners and even coastal Texans in the line of deadly hurricanes proved no match for the industry’s tough new bill asserting the primacy of its favorite state agency – the Texas Railroad Commission – to preempt local ordinances.

Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, the chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, and the former chairman of that committee Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, often worked in tandem during a three-hour debate to hold the controversial bill intact against 10 attempts by Democrats to amend it.

And, they succeeded in keeping to a compromise reached between Darby, the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) and the Texas Municipal League (TML). It states that the Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have the rights to preempt any local ordinance – such as requiring special safety valves on wells in the line of hurricanes – that applies to operations beneath the surface.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 17, 2015

Urban drilling bill, HB 40, sails to House preliminary passage, 122-18 Darby keeps promise to fend off all 10 amendments to protect city powers

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 17, 2015

EDF’s Anderson: HB 40 could cost lives

Urban fracking bill “will lead to recriminations, embarrassment . . . outright loss of life and damage to property”

Scott Anderson of Environmental Defense Fund last night made public a letter he wrote to Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez in which he warns of dire consequences – including lost lives – if the urban drilling bill, HB 40, passes in its current form.

The bill by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee, is set for floor debate today in the Texas House. It says state regulation preempts local regulations over urban oil and gas operations, such as drilling and hydraulic fracturing, that are conducted below the surface.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 16, 2015

Senate approves Fraser’s SB 709 on environmental permits

Critics say bill limits public’s rights to contest harm of major industrial plants

Thursday the Texas Senate approved, 22-9, an environmental permitting bill enthusiastically embraced by energy concerns but decried by critics who say it unfairly tips the balance against individuals facing harm to their health and property.

Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said his SB 709 brings regulatory certainty to contested cases involving major environmental permits, replacing a system that has cost Texas large industrial and petrochemical projects.

“Texas every year competes with other Gulf Coast states for major economic investment. As of today, we’re at a serious disadvantage because of the length of time it takes to get a permit for any major environmental project,” Fraser said, opening debate on the bill.

Shintech Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of PVC resins, decided against locating a plant worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars in Texas, citing its uncertain regulatory environment as a paramount reason, Fraser noted.   

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 14, 2015

Senate approves bill repealing CREZ, renewable energy goals

Critics say SB 931 alarms wind investors, removes tool for climate change challenge

This story has been corrected to note, "Texas leads the nation with 14,000 MW of wind, a $28 billion investment spread over 57 counties, Clark noted. That leaves another $14 billion investment adding 7,000 megawatts (MW) of wind generation currently under construction, mostly in West Texas and the Panhandle." The original story incorrectly reported that the dollar amounts were in the millions, not the billions.

A bill repealing a 16-year-old law credited with turning Texas into the nation’s No. 1 wind energy producer – particularly with the build up of transmission lines in so-called Competitive Energy Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) –passed the Texas Senate Tuesday on a final vote of 21-10.

SB 931 by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, declares Texas renewable energy goals as a mission accomplished.  Along with eliminating renewable energy goals in the form of renewable portfolio standards, it also prohibits the PUC from establishing any new CREZ transmission zones after Jan. 1, 2015.  

The bill makes an exception for a $130 million Panhandle project to add a second circuit to a single circuit line as certified by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) by May 1, 2014.

Environmentalists and other renewable advocates said the Senate’s action is a step backward, removing a tool Texas will need to more easily meet federal climate change requirements that are expected to be finalized this summer.  

They also complain it sends the wrong message to investors.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 14, 2015

Darby: HB 40 should be back on the floor for debate Friday

Opponents hint that more efforts ahead to derail urban fracking bill

House Bill 40 author Rep. Drew Darby, R-Angelo, said his House Energy Resources Committee is meeting in the Agriculture Museum to send the urban drilling and fracking bill back to the House, where it could be debated by Friday.

Darby told Texas Energy Report he agreed to send the bill back to committee based on a procedural objection by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, because it was clear it would be upheld.

The objection also applied to an open carry bill, that had been scheduled for floor debate, which Darby said would also be recommitted. Both bills were the subject of computer-generated change of position reports, he noted.

Other bills facing the same problem will simply undergo a technical fix, he said.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 14, 2015

Urban drilling bill is pulled down in the Texas House

Bill goes back to committee following a point of order; a software problem caused discrepancies in the committee report

House Bill 40, the controversial urban fracking bill that several cities oppose, has been recommitted back to the Texas House Energy Resources Committee on a point of order by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, the House clerk confirms. More details to follow.

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 13, 2015

EDF to TXOGA: Drop lawsuit against first responder fee

Arlington fracking accident Saturday shows why industry should stop fight against first responder fee, city controls, EDF says

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), noting a weekend natural gas well emergency that forced evacuation of nearby residents until Sunday afternoon, asked the state’s largest oil and gas lobby Monday to drop its lawsuit against the City of Arlington’s fee to train first responders in oil and gas accidents.

“In light of the uncontrolled well that over the weekend forced evacuation of citizens in the heart of Arlington, Texas, I urge you to consider dropping the TXOGA (Texas Oil & Gas Association) lawsuit against fees needed to fund the city’s firefighting efforts,” said a letter dated April 12 to TXOGA President Todd Staples from EDF Regional Director (Texas Office) Jim Marston.

“The modest, $2,400 per-well fee enables hiring and training firefighters to respond to oil and gas emergencies of the exact sort that occurred Saturday and continued for 24 hours. I am sure many people would find continued opposition by TXOGA to this fee to be callous. It is only natural to fear that the TXOGA lawsuit puts the health, safety and lives of Texans at risk,” Marston’s letter continued.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes

April 13, 2015

Environmentalists wage battle on industry-friendly HB 40

Protestors point to Arlington fracking accident, plan all-night Capitol vigil

Environmental groups, armed with news of a fracking fluid leak at a natural gas well in southwest Arlington, are mounting an aggressive protest campaign today against HB 40, set for House floor debate on Tuesday.

The Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) drafted the original bill by House Energy Resources Committee Chairman Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, which would remove the ability of local governments to set limits and regulate subsurface oil and gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short).  

Arlington residents evacuated about 50 homes near the scene Saturday after Vantage Energy called 911 to report that natural gas had pushed pressurized fracking fluid out of the well shortly after a crew had begun fracking the well, the Dallas Morning News reported. Residents returned after the well was successfully plugged at 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

The Rest of the Story, Subscribers Only

By Polly Ross Hughes