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How a Judge Scrapped Pennsylvania Families’ $4.24M Water Pollution Verdict in Gas Drilling Lawsuit

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Source:  desmogblog.com

Ray Kemble

By Sharon Kelly and Steve Horn

For many residents of Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, it’s been nearly a decade since their lives were turned upside down by the arrival of Cabot Oil and Gas, a company whose Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) wells were plagued by a series of spills and other problems linked to the area’s contamination of drinking water supplies.

With a new federal court ruling handed down late last Friday, a judge unwound a unanimous eight-person jury which had ordered Cabot to pay a total of $4.24 million over the contamination of two of those families’ drinking water wells. In a 58 page ruling, Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson discarded the jury’s verdict in Ely v. Cabot and ordered a new trial, extending the legal battle over one of the highest-profile and longest-running fracking-related water contamination cases in the country.

In his order, Judge Carlson chastised the plaintiff’s lawyers for “repeatedly inviting the jury to engage in unwarranted speculation” and wrote that, in his personal estimation, the plaintiffs had not presented enough evidence to warrant the jury’s $4.24 million in damages. The original complaint for the case was filed in November 2009.

Nonetheless, Judge Carlson declined to throw out the lawsuit entirely, ordering Cabot to re-start settlement talks with the Ely and Hubert families. If those talks fail, the trial process will begin anew, extending the already years-long legal battle into months or even years to come.

“The judge heard the same case that the jury heard and the jury was unanimous,” Nolan Scott Ely, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “How can he take it upon himself to set aside their verdict? It’s outrageous.”

Retrials “Not as Rare”

Over time, Judge Carlson’s order noted, the plaintiffs’ legal complaints had been successfully winnowed down by Cabot, which was represented at trial by several lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright, the tenth highest-grossing law firm in the world in 2016. The case now centers around a nuisance complaint.

Ely, whose background is in construction work, and his family and neighbors were represented at trial by a solo practitioner, Leslie Lewis, assisted by one other attorney. During one brief stint in the years leading up to the trial, the two families had no lawyer at all, but represented themselves. When the case began, they had the assistance of the firms Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates and the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm (the former employer of Lewis), which ushered in a settlement agreement with some of the 44 original plaintiffs.

But Ely and others were not satisfied with the offer, which included a non-disclosure agreement, and decided to proceed with the lawsuit.

John-Mark Stensvaag, an environmental law professor at the University of Iowa, said that orders to re-try cases “are not as rare as one might think.”

“This does not mean that the plaintiffs have no case,” he added, “it only means that, in [Judge Carlson’s] opinion, they have not presented a case justifying the jury’s verdict and should be given a second opportunity to present an adequate case.”

The Ely family leaves the federal courthouse on the first day of trial in 2016. Credit: Laura Evangelisto © 2016

Carter Road Water Contamination

There’s little question that something is very wrong with the water on Carter Road, despite lingering questions in the legal battles centering around that contaminated water.

In 2016, shortly after the Elys and Huberts’ $4.24 million verdict, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report concluding that Dimock’s tainted waters carried dangerous levels of chemicals including arsenic, lithium, and 4-chlorophenyl phenyl ether (which is acutely toxic if swallowed). Further, the water was laced with enough methane that five of the homes on Carter Road had been at risk of exploding. Indeed, on New Year’s Day 2009, one of Dimock’s contaminated drinking water wells did explode.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

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Stop the Frack Attack National Summit

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Activists from all across the nation are converging in Denver, Colorado this October for the Stop the Frack Attack National Summit. At the summit, anti-fracking activists and  front line communities will come together to build our movement and discuss how we are going to put an end to fracking nationwide. There will be numerous workshops on organizing, outreach, non-violent direct action, community rights building, fundraising, and much more.

The Stop the Frack Attack National Summit is being held in Denver, Colorado from October 3rd – 5th. For more information and to RSVP, please visit: http://bitly.com/FrackingSummit


This summit will also be the first non-violent direct action training opportunity for Californians who have taken the Pledge of Resistance. If you haven’t already taken the pledge to resist extreme oil & gas extraction in California, please sign on here: http://bitly.com/ResistFracking.

There are scholarships still available for folks who can’t afford some of the costs, so if you are free during the first weekend of October, please consider joining us in Colorado! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at damienluzzo33@gmail.com.

RSVP for the summit here: http://bitly.com/FrackingSummit

Add your 2 cents against leasing public lands for as little as $2 an acre for oil & gas

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Please submit a comment to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in your own words, asking that the minimum rate per acre for oil and gas leasing be MUCH higher than $2 an acre, and ask the BLM to remove caps established by current regulations on civil penalties that may be assessed under the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act.

Most importantly, be sure to demand that the BLM NOT approve any more land for oil & gas development/leasing on Wild Horse & Burro Herd Management Areas (HMAs) (since there supposedly isn’t enough water and forage for wild horses and burros on their federally protected HMAs).

wis.Par.69820.Image.200.135.1  (photo:  BLM)
BLM Extends Public Comment Period to June 19, 2015 on Oil and Gas Royalty Rulemaking

SOURCE: goldrushcam.com

May 29, 2015- WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it is extending the public comment period on its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to seek public comment on potential updates to BLM rules governing oil and gas royalty rates, rental payments, lease sale minimum bids, civil penalty caps and financial assurances.

Notice of the two-week extension, which extends the comment period deadline to June 19, 2015, will be published in the Federal Register on June 3, 2015.

Modernizing the BLM’s royalty rate structures can provide greater flexibility, especially given the dramatic growth of oil development on public and tribal lands, where production has increased in each of the past six years, and combined production was up 81 percent in 2014 versus 2008. Potential changes to BLM’s regulations would also respond to concerns expressed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Interior’s Office of Inspector General, and others that the BLM’s existing rules lack flexibility and could be causing the United States to forgo significant revenue to the detriment of taxpayers.

The GAO has repeatedly concluded that the BLM’s regulations do not provide a reasonable assurance that the public is getting appropriate fair share of the revenue from these resources. The BLM’s current rules lack the flexibility to offer new competitive leases at higher royalty rates.

The ANPR also addresses the value of these resources by inviting comment on how the BLM might update its rules regarding the minimum acceptable bid that must be paid by parties seeking a lease at auction, and the annual rental payments that are due after a lease is obtained. The current minimum acceptable auction bid is $2 per acre, which is well below the rate at which most parcels sell, suggesting that the rate could be higher. After obtaining a lease, a lessee is currently required to make annual rental payments until the lease starts producing oil or gas. These rental rates currently are $1.50 per acre for the first five years and $2 for years five through 10. The ANPR invites comment on how rental payments might be better structured to incentivize diligent development of leased areas.

The BLM encourages the public to be actively engaged in this process by submitting comments on the revised proposed rule before June 19 in one of the following ways:

Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC, 20240, Attention: 1004-AE41.

Personal or messenger delivery: Bureau of Land Management, 20 M. St. SE, Room 2134 LM, Attention: Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20003.

Online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments at this Website.

To read the original advance notice of public rulemaking go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-04-21/pdf/2015-09033.pdf

Would you drink it?

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This clip is from a March 24, 2015 Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission hearing on an out-of-state company’s application to export its toxic fracking wastewater into Nebraska, moving 80 truckloads carrying 10,000 barrels per day of pollution destined to be dumped into a disposal well in Sioux County — transferring all the risk onto Nebraska farmers and ranchers.

James Osborn, who commented below, is my new hero.  –  Debbie

SIGN the PETITION to the Nebraska Oil & Gas Commission “DON’T FRACK OUR WATER” HERE.

Monster Wells: Despite Drought, Hundreds of Fracking Sites Used More Than 10 Million Gallons of Water

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Monster Wells

Despite Drought, Hundreds of Fracking Sites Used More Than 10 Million Gallons of Water

By Soren Rundquist, Landscape and Remote Sensing Analyst & Bill Walker, Consultant
Former EWG Staff Attorney Briana Dema and former EWG Stanbeck Intern Elizabeth Kerpon contributed to this report.


When it’s confronted with the growing concern about the vast volumes of water used in hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells, industry tries to dodge the question.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) points out that drilling wells with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology, commonly called “fracking,” consumes far less water than other commonplace activities such as raising livestock, irrigating crops or even watering golf courses. According to the Institute, the amount of water used to frack one natural gas well “typically is the equivalent of three to six Olympic swimming pools.”1

That amounts to 2-to-4 million gallons per well of a precious and, in many parts of the country, increasingly scarce resource.2 For its part, the Environmental Protection Agency says it takes “fifty thousand to 350,000 gallons to frack one well in a coal bed formation, while two-to-five million gallons of water may be necessary to fracture one horizontal well in a shale formation.”3

But data reported and verified by the industry itself reveal that those “typical” amounts are hardly the upper limit. An analysis by Environmental Working Group reveals that hundreds of fracked gas and oil wells across the country are monster wells that required 10 million to almost 25 million gallons of water each. More

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers

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strip bannernew-logo25 Debbie Coffey   V.P. Wild Horse Freedom Federation

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I repeat, wild horses being driven to extinction by the BLM is the canary in the coal mine of what is happening on America’s public lands and to America’s water.  –  Debbie Coffey

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 Texan Cowboy Man Seated Backwards on a Steer, The Reins Tied to the Tail Clipart

SOURCE:  nbcbayarea.com

In a time when California faces an historic drought, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has uncovered that state officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump billions of gallons of waste water into protected aquifers. Investigative Reporter Stephen Stock reports in a story that aired on November 14, 2014.

State officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump nearly three billion gallons of waste water into underground aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation.

Those aquifers are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, protected by the EPA.

“It’s inexcusable,” said Hollin Kretzmann, at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we’re allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It’s possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably.”

California’s Department of Conservation’s Chief Deputy Director, Jason Marshall, told NBC Bay Area, “In multiple different places of the permitting process an error could have been made.”

“There have been past issues where permits were issued to operators that they shouldn’t be injecting into those zones and so we’re fixing that,” Marshall added.

In “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing operations, oil and gas companies use massive amounts of water to force the release of underground fossil fuels. The practice produces large amounts of waste water that must then be disposed of. More

BLM fracking racket exposed! Armed seige and cattle theft at Bundy Ranch really about fracking leases

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The Daily Sheeple

“The way this works, of course, is that BLM runs land theft operations by claiming they are “managing” the land and thereby kicking everyone else off it. They then invoke a reptile, an owl, a bird, a snake or some other animal which they claim to be “saving,” even while they are stealing and destroying hundreds of cattle belonging to a private rancher trying to make an honest living in a nation where productive Americans are increasingly branded “enemies of the state.”

Editors Note:  This is the same BLM that rounded up the wild horses and sent them to slaughter and which continues to hunt them into extinction.  We warned the cattle ranchers that this same method of eradication would be used on them when the BLM was ready.  And ready they are!

Petroleum-Data-Clark-County-Nevada-Gold-Butte-Area

The Bureau of Land Management says its 200-man armed siege of the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada is all about protecting an “endangered tortoise.” But a Natural News investigation has found that BLM is actually in the business of raking in millions of dollars by leasing Nevada lands to energy companies that engage in fracking operations.

This document from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology(1) shows significant exploratory drilling being conducted in precisely the same area where the Bundy family has been running cattle since the 1870′s. The “Gold Butte” area is indicated on the lower right corner of the document (see below), and it clearly shows numerous exploratory drilling operations have been conducted there.

What’s also clear is that oil has been found in nearby areas and possibly even within the Gold Butte area itself.

It is, of course, customary for the U.S. government to bring armed soldiers to an oil dispute. (Operation “Iraqi Freedom” for starters…) Heavily armed snipers, helicopters and militarized soldiers have never been invoked over tortoises. (Anyone who thinks this siege is about reptiles is kidding themselves.)

Here’s the map showing the oil exploration conducted on the land where Bundy runs his cattle (all the red crosshairs are oil and gas exploration drilling operations):

BLM collects $1.27 million in shale fracking leases

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