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Exxon’s Oozing Texas Oil Pits Haunt Residents as XTO Deal Nears - BusinessWeek, Carroll, Joe ,, (2010)


--Editors: Flynn McRoberts, Susan Warren


This article examines the lawsuit against Exxon filed by Texas rancher Elizabeth Burns.

See: Rancho Los Malulos | A satirical view from the McGill Brothers Lease

Oil’s ‘Ugly Side’

“This isn’t something the states are proud to advertise,” said Philip Dellinger, chief of the groundwater section in the Austin, Texas, office of the Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s the ugly side of the oil and gas business.”

The EPA says it has no authority to force companies to address contamination on active fields and must defer to Texas regulators, who let oil companies determine if sites need cleanup.

...Pollution from decades-old wells and waste pits isn’t isolated to their ranch or Exxon. There are more than 100,000 old wells in Texas that haven’t been capped and thousands of defunct gas-processing plants, compressor stations and related equipment that have never been dismantled, according to the Texas Land and Minerals Owners Association, which represents 1,200 ranchers, farmers and individuals who own stakes in oil and gas fields.

Contamination Migrates

The contamination may have migrated from a defunct oilfield on the north end of town, where sludge and other waste from wells was dumped in open dirt pits for decades, said J.T. Garcia, president of the Duval County Conservation and Reclamation District. He doesn’t know who operated the field, which stopped pumping crude in the 1970s.

The Burns’s ranch, which covers an area equal to the size of Brooklyn, is just one example of the lingering environmental damage across swaths of south, west and east Texas from what were once regarded as acceptable oilfield practices, said Patterson, the commissioner with the Texas General Land Office, which oversees oil leases that help fund the state’s schools and universities.

Mrs. Burns | Photo by Sharon Wilson

“They’d just dig a pit and put the oil in it and then they’d haul it off later, or maybe they wouldn’t haul it off later, depending on the price of oil at the time,” said Patterson. “That was the norm, and nobody said anything about it.”

...Although lighter-weight hydrocarbons can degrade naturally in 40 or 50 years, the heavier molecules “are more persistent and pretty toxic,” said Gregory Miller, project manager at Icon Environmental Services Inc., a Port Allen, Louisiana-based company that cleans up old oilfields. “You have no idea how bad some of these sites are.”

Daunting Task

Patterson said cleaning up a tract as large as the Encinitos Ranch is impossible. Instead, the best solution may be to fence it off and monitor the pollution to ensure it doesn’t migrate underground to other ranches...

...“Exxon’s walked away from a lot of this stuff they built here, but the evil lurks,” said Burns, who had planned to raise organic vegetables when she and her husband moved to the ranch with their sons five years ago. “You’d hope your kids can do something with this land, but now it’s worthless.

Exxon-Xto Deal Forces Congress to Reconsider Natural Gas, Kirkland, Joel , The New York Times : Climatewire, (2010)

By Joel Kirkland of ClimateWire, New York Times.

The $31 billion Exxon-XTO all-stock deal still has to jump some regulatory hurdles. If the merger becomes real, Exxon will be the largest natural gas producer in the country, controlling large chunks of acreage in the most promising onshore gas fields in the United States.

Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and the Appalachian regions of Pennsylvania and New York are the epicenter of shale gas, coalbed methane and tight-sand gas formations.

See: Marching Band, Quail Hunt Helped Exxon’s Tillerson to XTO Deal -

Exxon, XTO Probably Won’t Face U.S. Fracturing Rules, FBR Says -, Polson, Jim ,, (2010)


By Jim Polson. Bloomberg Business Week. January 21, 2010.

Exxon Mobil Corp., XTO Energy Inc. and other shale-gas producers probably won’t face U.S. rules that would add costs of $100,000 a well, given comments at a Congressional hearing yesterday and the loss of a Senate seat by majority Democrats, FBR Capital Markets Corp. analysts said.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon’s $30 billion acquisition of XTO isn’t in jeopardy, Benjamin Salisbury and other FBR analysts wrote in a report to clients today. U.S. laws making shale development “illegal or commercially impracticable” would let Exxon terminate the deal without penalty, under the buyout agreement.

Democrats at the hearing praised the economic and environmental benefits of replacing fuels such as coal with cleaner-burning natural gas, indicating the party will emphasize jobs and the economy rather than restrictions on fracturing petroleum-bearing rock that might curb drilling by as much as 20 percent, the analysts wrote. Environmentalists said chemicals in fracturing fluid contaminate drinking water.

Exxon Mobil Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation , Exxon Mobil Corporation, (2010)


ExxonMobil. The Lamp. No. 4, 2009. p. 7-8.

Andrew Swiger, Exxon Senior V.P. has said,

"A key question about shale and other unconventional plays will be whether a company has the technology to turn them into profitable opportunities.

Swiger notes that technology advances ExxonMobil has perfected in producing unconventional natural gas from tight-sands formations in Colorado’s Piceance Basin should prove advantageous.

ExxonMobil‐XTO Merger:

Read preliminary transcripts of Rex Tillerson, CEO, giving testimony to the House Energy Committee.

ExxonMobil‐XTO Merger: Impact on U.S. Energy Markets Preliminary Transcript of Testimony, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Committee on Energy and Commerce. Wednesday, January 20, 2010. 122 pages.

This merger heralds a fundamental long‐term shift in U.S. energy markets and one that deserves our close attention. Over the last decade, a small group of companies that most Americans have never heard of has been developing huge deposits of natural gas in deep shale formations across America."

-Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chair of Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.Tillerson testimony on p. 52.

Exxon Confronts Nuns, Calpers Over Global Warming Plans, Boskin, Carroll, Joe ,, (2007)


Exxon Confronts Nuns, Calpers Over Global Warming Plans, Boskin

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil company, faces growing criticism from investors who say it's lagging behind competitors in addressing global warming.

The Sisters of Saint Dominic, a Roman Catholic order in New Jersey, want shareholders at today's annual meeting to approve a proposal for setting targets on greenhouse-gas reductions. The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the biggest U.S. public pension fund, seeks to oust Michael Boskin, the Exxon director who runs the board committee responsible for environmental issues.

...``Exxon's the industry laggard when it comes to climate change,'' said Laura Shaffer, manager of shareholder activities at the New York-based Nathan Cummings Foundation, which oversees $535 million.

``Given their market capitalization and their earnings, they shouldn't be lagging anybody on this issue.''

The foundation is part of an investor group that backs a proposal to force Exxon to boost spending on ethanol and other non-petroleum fuels.

Shareholders who attend the meeting at the Symphony Center in Dallas will also vote on a measure that seeks to rein in share buybacks, which have tripled in the past three years, in favor of a one-time dividend. Another would limit compensation for the company's top five executives, including Tillerson, to $500,000 a year.

Extraction-tax and campaign donations, ,, (2010)


Between now and October 1st, the state legislature will debate a new tax on natural gas extraction. But because of a loophole in the state's campaign finance laws, legislators will likely cast their votes before disclosing recent donations. That means the gas industry and environmental groups can flood Harrisburg with contributions without anyone knowing where the money is going.

That's why "It's Our Money” and Common Cause have teamed up to create a place where lawmakers can report contributions in real time: Marcellus Shale Money Watch.

Pennsylvania's environmental destruction is not limited to gas drilling. See: Coalfield Justice Blog, "What Could Be Worse?

Here is what could be worse: all the concern about shale gas has made the public unaware of other continuing problems. Big coal continues to destroy houses and streams. No one is demanding that the long overdue Act 54-required study of longwall mining be released. Big coal is continuing to do as it will with coal ash. With budget cuts in DEP, longwall enforcement, which has never been adequate, will  be even worse.

Experts in Favor of Public Access, Learn-Andes, Jennifer , The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre & Scranton PA, Wilkes-Barre, PA, (2011)



Terry Mutchler, executive director of the state’s Office of Open Records.


Jennifer Learn-Andes
Luzerne County Reporter

The public should have access to the inner workings of Luzerne County home rule subcommittees, say three experts on the state’s open meeting law.

Unwarranted closed-door meetings “fracture public trust,” said Terry Mutchler, executive director of the state’s Office of Open Records.

...“If they’ve opened the committee meetings to the public, it’s a natural follow that the subcommittee meetings be open as well,” Mutchler said, noting that her office has no legal jurisdiction over alleged violations of the Sunshine Act governing open meetings.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said the Sunshine Act applies to committees of an agency that render advice, which would include the subcommittees.

“I think the language of the law is pretty clear. I think members of the public who are seeking public access are very legitimate in doing so. I think they have a strong argument,” she said.

See: Freedom of Information in the USA

Expert Testimony on Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts, Bredehoeft, Hohn D. , (2003)


History of hydraulic fracturing | criticism of the 2004 EPA study.

I am writing on behalf of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project to provide an impartial analysis of the adequacy of the actions proposed in the subject report. I am a practicing hydrogeologist; I spent 32 years at the U.S. Geological Survey in both management and research positions. I left the USGS in 1995 to become a consultant. I have published more than 100 papers in the refereed scientific literature on various groundwater problems. My resume is attached to this comment.

Coal-bed methane is an energy source that in many places in the United States is associated with underground sources of drinking water (USDW). In some places the coal beds are the best aquifers in the area. In these places the development of CBM is incompatible with the continued use of the coal beds as an aquifer.

There is a direct conflict between national/state energy policy and the preservation of USDW. For example, in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana the Bureau of Land Management predicts, in their Final Environmental Impact Statement for CBM, that the development will lower the water levels in the coal measures by 600 to 800 feet over much of the basin.

This will make unusable several thousand private water wells that are completed in the coal beds. The law favors the development of the methane over the continued use of the coal beds as aquifers—in this case the best aquifers in the area.

...EPA discounted problems associated with hydraulic fractures based upon a limited sample of identified problems. They relied upon citizen reports almost exclusively. There were no independent surveys, no independent field investigation or other well sampling. The EPA exercise is incomplete at best.

...EPA seems caught up in the conflict between the National Energy Policy of the Bush Administration and the EPA mandate to protect USDW.

Letter written by Hydrology expert, John D, Bredehoeft, to Joan Harrigan-Farrelly: Chief Underground Injection Control, Prevention Program Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Environmental Protection Agency.

RE: EPA draft study report:Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs: Subject: Federal Register August 28, 2002, Volume 67, Number 10, Pages55249-55251 (water Docket Id no. w-01-09-11).

See also: Bredehoeft, J. (2003). " From Models to Performance Assessment: The Conceptualization Problem." Ground Water, Vol. 41, No.5 pp 571-577.

EPA Research Highlights | Science Matters, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) , Science Matters, Volume 2, Issue Number 1, (2011)


GEMS: Great Environmental Moments in Science

Overhead shot of a highway system

Can Highways Contribute to Asthma?
EPA scientists and partners team up to examine the link between road-related air pollution and susceptibility to asthma.

Can Rain Barrels and Gardens Help Keep Sewage in the Sewers?
EPA researchers investigate how well rain barrels and rain gardens retain stormwater.

Rain barrel collecting water from a drainspout
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Environmental Justice: What’s Science Got to Do With It?
EPA researcher describes new research efforts to better understand the link between environmental health and justice.

Executive Message:

...As an agency, we are ready to face scientific challenges in 2011 that range from mountain top mining to hydraulic fracturing to endocrine disruption and more. But the reason it’s so important to invest in the kind of new thinking, methods, and approaches that Administrator Jackson has called for, is to ensure our ability to take on those challenges we can’t foresee. Innovative thinking and sustainable approaches will be out best tools to confront new environmental challenges as they arise.

Paul T. Anastas
Assistant Administrator
Office of Research and Development


EPA in the Crosshairs, Bravender, Robin , Politico, (2010)


According to the American Journalism Review, Politico is a Washington, D.C. based website and newspaper that focuses on Beltway political coverage, started by veteran Washington Post political reporters John Harris and Jim VandeHei started in January 2007.

Congressional Republicans planning an assault on the Obama administration’s environmental record aim to turn Lisa Jackson into public enemy No. 1.

On the campaign trail, Republicans have adopted the Environmental Protection Agency as a favorite symbol of the White House’s regulatory overreach. And behind the scenes in Washington, GOP staffers and K Street lobbyists who say they've been dissed by the EPA administrator are looking forward to getting some revenge.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the energy committee, said Jackson isn’t “rude or uncivil” but appears to be “on some sort of a mission, come heck or high water."

“Mrs. Jackson does not appear to be overly concerned about a cooperative relationship with the Congress or, at least, with the minority members of the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Barton told POLITICO.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) complained earlier this year after a contentious meeting with Jackson over coal mining. Jackson told her that “the EPA is not required, and they do not consider, jobs or economic impact when evaluating permits," Capito told the Charleston Daily Mail.

Under her watch, the EPA has pushed through the nation’s first-ever climate rules aimed at curbing emissions from large industries and automobiles. The agency has also come under fire for its efforts to limit toxic coal ash, ozone and soot and smog emissions from power plants...

...Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he wants to use the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to lead a probe into the science underpinning the EPA’s climate regulations.

And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) hopes to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so he can examine the administration’s climate and energy policies.

See: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Foiling E.P.A.

See: Howarth warns EPA on shale gas greenhouse footprint

See: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Hydraulic Fracturing Study (2010-2012)

See: Birth Of EPA

See: Jannette M. Barth. (2010). "Unanswered Questions About The Economic Impact of Gas Drilling In the Marcellus Shale: Don’t Jump to Conclusions."

The entire Marcellus Shale region in New York may be at risk both economically and environmentally. While the environmental risks have been a focus of concern, many stakeholders have assumed that a positive economic impact would result. In reality, the economic impact may very well be negative.

And the likelihood is that gas drilling would adversely affect other economic activities such as tourism and sport fishing and hunting. To some extent gas drilling and these other industries are likely to be mutually exclusive. The net effect is what must be considered.

See: Glenn Greenwald. May 30, 2008. "The right-wing Politico cesspool". Salon.

I once thought that Politico would be a pernicious new addition to our rotted media culture. Instead, it actually provides a valuable service by packing every destructive and corrupt journalistic attribute, in its most vivid form, into one single cesspool.

See: Gabriel Nelson. NYT. 11/9/10. EPA Issues Emissions Reporting Rules for Oil and Gas Industry

See: Lisa P. Jackson, EPA (lisapjackson) on Twitter

EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan Review Panel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) , EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB), (2011)



Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan Review Panel

The Panel will review and provide independent expert advice on EPA’s draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan that will investigate the potential public health and environmental protection research issues that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing.


It will be led by David A. Dzombak, professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Legere, Laura. "Peer-review panel for EPA fracking study includes six Pa. scientists." The Scranton Times-Tribune. Jan. 18, 2011.

A panel of geologists, toxicologists, engineers and doctors that will peer-review a high-profile Environmental Protection Agency study of hydraulic fracturing will include six scientists from Pennsylvania, more than any other state.

The panel will review the techniques and analysis the EPA uses to draft a study of the potential environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing - the process used in natural gas exploration of injecting a high-pressure mix of chemically treated water and sand underground to break apart a rock formation and release the gas.

...In a memo announcing the new panel, the EPA found "no conflicts of interest or appearances of a lack of impartiality for the members of this panel."

See: Natural Gas Drillers Protest Nomination of Fracking Critics for EPA Review Panel

See also: Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan

Determination Memo:
Posted 01/13/2011
Determination Memo for this Activity. (1/27/2011, PDF, 11 pp., 44,581 bytes)


Dzombak, David A. Chair Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA
Alexeeff, George   California Environmental Protection Agency Oakland CA
Ballestero, Tom   University of New Hampshire Durham NH
Benjamin, Mark   University of Washington Seattle WA
Boufadel, Michel   Temple University Philadelphia PA
Boyer, Elizabeth   Pennsylvania State University University Park PA
Burnett, David   Texas A&M University College Station TX
Davis, Thomas L.   Colorado School of Mines Golden CO
Dunn-Norman, Shari   Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla MO
Giesy, John P.   University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon Saskatchewan
Griffiths, Jeffrey   Tufts University Boston MA
Gschwend, Phillip   Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge MA
Harris, Cynthia M.   Florida A&M University Tallahassee FL
Kim, Nancy K.   Health Research, Inc. Troy NY
Lee, Cindy M.   Clemson University Anderson SC
Patten, Duncan   Montana State University Bozeman MT
Randtke, Stephen   University of Kansas Lawrence KS
Reible, Danny   University of Texas Austin TX
Schreppel, Connie   Mohawk Valley Water Authority Utica NY
Thyne, Geoffery   University of Wyoming Laramie WY
VanBriesen, Jeanne   Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA
Vidic, Radisav   University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA

Current Advisory Activities

EPA Findings on Hydraulic Fracturing Deemed “Unsupportable”., Union of Concerned Scientists , Union of Concerned Scientists: Citizens and Scientists for Environmental Solutions, (2007)


When an EPA study concluding that hydraulic fracturing "poses little or no threat" to drinking water supplies was published in 2004, several EPA scientists challenged the study's methodology and questioned the impartiality of the expert panel that reviewed its findings.

See: Halliburton's Interests Assisted by White House - Los Angeles Times.

See also: Expert Opinion on the EPA research prior to the passage of the Energy Policy Act (2005) by EPA whistle-blower Weston Wilson, 2004.

See: Climate Science Watch.

See: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Reaffirms Statements on Climate Change and Integrity. 12/04/09.

Sean Hannity of Fox News has failed Science.

Can you tell Fact from Science Fiction?


EPA chief faces hostile House GOP, Bravender, Robin, and Goode Darren , Politico, (2011)



The showdown between House Republicans and the White House over climate change and environmental policies kicks off Wednesday with EPA chief Lisa Jackson as the star witness.

The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on legislation floated last week by Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Jackson last week blasted what she called “draconian measures” aimed at handcuffing her agency, and insisted that the White House would veto legislation to take away its regulatory authority.

“These efforts would halt EPA’s common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from harmful air pollution that until now has not been regulated at all from any sources in this country,” she said.

According to the American Journalism Review, Politico is a Washington, D.C. based website and newspaper that focuses on Beltway political coverage, started by veteran Washington Post political reporters John Harris and Jim VandeHei started in January 2007.

See: Glenn Greenwald. May 30, 2008. "The right-wing Politico cesspool". Salon.

I once thought that Politico would be a pernicious new addition to our rotted media culture. Instead, it actually provides a valuable service by packing every destructive and corrupt journalistic attribute, in its most vivid form, into one single cesspool.

See: Republicans ask court to toss climate case

See: Smackdown: climate science vs. climate economics

See: EPA in the Crosshairs | Mixplex

See: Beware The Green Dragon! | Right Wing Watch

See: Energy & Commerce Committee Investigates Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing

See: Global Warming Experts

See: Climate Science Watch

EOG Resources, EOG Resources , EOG Resources, (2010)


From EOG website: EOG Resources, Inc. is one of the largest independent (non-integrated) oil and natural gas companies in the United States with proved reserves in the United States, Canada, Trinidad, the United Kingdom and China. EOG Resources, Inc. is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is traded under the ticker symbol “EOG."

An EOG blew out in Clearville PA. on June 4, 2010.

From Sourcewatch: On June 4, 2010, a western Pennsylvania natural-gas well owned by EOG Resources Inc. blew out, releasing an undisclosed amount of gas and drilling fluids before being contained about 16 hours later, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.

Operators at this site were preparing to extract gas after through [hydrofracking]]. In a press release, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stated that it would "aggressively investigate" the Marcellus Shale well blowout and that it would take the "appropriate enforcement action."

"As a result, the well released natural gas and flowback (fracturing) fluid onto the ground and 75 feet into the air," the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said in the press release. It should be noted that EOG Resources is the new namesake for the company formerly known as Enron.

Environmental Issues and Challenges in Coal Bed Methane Production, Fisher, Berton J. , p.1 - 19, (2002)


Click for the article here.

"...Environmental issues surrounding the development of CBM resources in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere have provoked conflict among mineral leaseholders, owners of the surface estates, and the public at large.

Citizen suits under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and private tort actions, complicate the development of CBM resources. Despite geographic and geologic differences among areas in which CBM resources have been developed, the core environmental issues are consistent:

(1) Groundwater table drawdown due to pumping large quantities of groundwater.

(2) Disposal of large volumes of produced water.

(3) Methane contamination of shallow groundwater.

(4) Noise pollution from compressors and other sources.

(5) Air pollution from compressor exhaust gases, methane leakage, and dust.

(6) Surface disturbance from construction of roads, pipelines, and other facilities.

In CBM production, water is produced in large volumes and must be disposed of.

Because waters produced from coalbeds are often fresh, and subsurface disposal is expensive, disposal to surface drainages, wherever possible, carries a strong economic incentive.

Such disposal may erode soils and sediments, change microclimate, create unsustainable aquatic habitats, or salinize soils."

The Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium (IPEC) is a consortium of the University of Tulsa, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, the mission of IPEC is to increase the competitiveness of the domestic petroleum industry through a reduction in the costs of compliance with U.S. environmental regulations.