About Air and Water

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cheney Helped Halliburton Hide Secrets About Dangerous Chemicals in YOUR Drinking Water.

Cheney Helped Halliburton Hide Secrets About Dangerous Chemicals in YOUR Drinking Water.

H.R. 7231 to Close the Hydraulic Fracturing Loophole That Is Fracing Up America’s Water.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracing) is a drilling technique that was developed by Halliburton. Millions of gallons of fresh water, along with sand, and cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are injected under high pressure miles down the drilling hole to fracture the limestone shale and release the oil and gas trapped within.

In 2005, at the urging of Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, Congress exempt fracing from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In 2001, Cheney’s energy task force report “touted” benefits and ignored consequences. His office was “involved in discussions about how fracturing should be portrayed in the [EPA] report.” Halliburton earns about $1.5 BILLION annually from hydraulic fracturing. (Ibid)

The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject KNOWN hazardous material—unchecked—directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.

EARTHWORKS-Hydraulic Fracturing of Oil and Gas Wells

H.R. 7231 will reinstate basic federal standards for hydraulic fracturing under the SDWA and enable the EPA to protect our drinking water from oil and gas pollution.
Read the rest and take action HERE

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interior Department racing to weaken endangered species rules

By The Associated Press, Oct. 22, 2008
WASHINGTON — Rushing to ease endangered species rules before President Bush leaves office, Interior Department officials are attempting to review 200,000 comments from the public in just 32 hours, according to an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has called a team of 15 people to Washington this week to pore through letters and online comments about a proposal to exclude greenhouse gases and the advice of federal biologists from decisions about whether dams, power plants and other federal projects could harm species. That would be the biggest change in endangered species rules since 1986.

In an e-mail last week to Fish and Wildlife managers across the country, Bryan Arroyo, head of the agency’s endangered species program, said the team would work eight hours a day starting Tuesday to the close of business Friday to sort through the comments.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., whose own letter opposing the changes is among the thousands that will be processed, called the 32-hour deadline a "last-ditch attempt to undermine the long-standing integrity of the endangered species program."

At that rate, according to a committee aide’s calculation, 6,250 comments would have to be reviewed every hour. That means that each member of the team would be reviewing at least seven comments each minute.

It usually takes months to review public comments on a proposed rule, and by law the government must respond before a rule becomes final. How fast the rule is finished could determine how hard it is to undo.

A new administration could freeze pending rules. But if the regulation is final before the next president takes office, reversing it would require another review and public comment period — a process that could take months and sometimes years.

North Texas agencies near deal to pump in water from Oklahoma

By MAX B. BAKER - Fort Worth Star Telegram - Oct. 22, 2008
FORT WORTH — In a sweeping cooperative agreement to provide water to North Texas’ growing population, the Tarrant Regional Water District, the city of Dallas and the North Texas Municipal Water District say they will work together to pipe water out of Oklahoma, a massive project that could cost several billion dollars.

Under the agreement, the Tarrant district will be the lead agency in negotiating with Oklahoma officials and in fighting any legal challenges.

The district approved the agreement Tuesday, and the Dallas City Council is scheduled to consider it today. The North Texas district approved it last month.

"I think it is a very positive step toward coordinating a regional water supply approach in North Texas," said Hal Sparks, vice president of the Tarrant district board.

By working together, the three agencies would also be able to share water stored in their own reservoirs to prevent shortages in the area, said Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant district.

It is the first step to a regional water supply that would make the Metroplex "almost drought-proof," Oliver said.

So far, the estimated cost of the pipeline is about $3 billion, he said.

Details of how the cost may be shared by the agencies have yet to be determined, officials said.

Cost sharing

Last year, the Tarrant district, searching for water for its exploding population, developed a plan to pump hundreds of millions of gallons from Oklahoma creeks and streams into its reservoirs.

Called a "robust project," it would provide enough water to serve the 4.3 million people who are expected to live in the district’s service area by 2060.The district now provides water to about 1.6 million people.

The Tarrant district wants to capture water from the Kiamichi River, Cache Creek and Beaver Creek basins before it enters the Red River and takes on too much salt. The first pipeline would pump water about 60 miles, from near Lawton, Okla., to Lake Bridgeport.

About the same time it filed permits for the water, the Tarrant district filed a lawsuit contending that a 2001 Oklahoma moratorium on out-of-state water sales violates federal law concerning interstate commerce.

Oklahoma contends that it can enforce the moratorium until a study of its water supply is completed. The lawsuit is pending before a federal appeals court in Denver.

The Tarrant district has spent about $2.4 million in developing its Oklahoma water plans, about half of it going for the legal challenge, said Wayne Owen, the district’s planning director.

He said Dallas and the North Texas Municipal Water District have agreed to retroactively share in those costs.

"The water we are all going to try and get into the Metroplex is going to be coming from farther and farther away," said Denis Qualls, senior engineer for the Dallas water department. "To partner in that and share the costs is a prudent thing."

How much each agency would contribute could depend on the amount of water used, Qualls said.

So far, the agreement only mentions the Kiamichi River basin near McAlester.

"We will be looking at this as it progresses into how much, when and how," he said.

Irving deal

The agreement could prove problematic for Irving, which reached a deal in August with the southeast Oklahoma town of Hugo to buy millions of gallons a year.

Under the contract, Irving would pump the water from Hugo Lake into North Texas, initially paying about $1.7 million a year.

Hugo, using money provided by Irving, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s ban on out-of-state water sales.

Tarrant district officials have painted Irving as looking out for its own interests to the detriment of everyone else.

Under the three-party agreement, Owen said, the water districts and Dallas may use the available capacity in many local reservoirs, making it harder for Irving to store water.

Irving Mayor Herbert Gears said that the city has spent millions developing its plans for Oklahoma water and that he doesn’t think the new agreement will affect them.

"In the end, we will all be partners in bringing water to North Texas," he said. "We’ll need pipelines, water treatment plants and reservoirs. And we’ll all have to win some court cases."

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dems propose energy tax breaks

By H. JOSEF HEBERT - Associated Press Writer - Sept. 15, 2008

WASHINGTON - House Democrats outlined $18 billion in tax incentives over 10 years for alternative energy and efficiency improvements Monday, proposing to pay for them by rescinding tax breaks for the biggest oil companies.

The tax package is expected to be included in an energy bill later in the week that also would lift the sweeping federal bans on offshore oil and gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The legislation would open, wherever a state agrees, waters at least 50 miles from shore from New England to Washington State. An exception would be waters off Florida's western coast where energy development would continue to be banned.

The tax provisions are similar to those that passed the House earlier this year, but not the Senate.

The proposal would extend tax credits for wind and solar industries that are scheduled to expire this year and provide a variety of tax incentives to spur development of alternative non-fossil energy resources such as cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels.

It would provide tax incentives to people wanting to put solar panels or mini-wind turbines on their homes, and to companies that encourage bicycle commuting by making available bike storage areas.

To pay for the new tax incentives, House Democrats want to roll back a pair of tax breaks enjoyed by the five largest oil companies. One was enacted to benefit all domestic manufacturers against foreign competition and the other involves tax credits claimed by U.S. oil companies for oil pumped overseas.

Together the two provisions, if continued, will save the largest oil companies $17.7 billion in taxes over the next decade.

Meanwhile, a sharp debate continued Monday over whether the Democrats' energy legislation actually will produce any more oil from offshore waters.

Republicans argued that the Democratic plan leaves out nearly 90 percent of the 18 billion barrels of oil believed to be located in areas of the Outer Continental Shelf now off limits because it would continue the ban in a 50-mile shoreline buffer.

And they argue that states would have little incentive to go along with drilling off their beaches — even 50 miles out to sea — if they would not share in the billions of dollars in federal royalties. The Democrats proposal has no royalty sharing provision.

The legislation would "do very little to increase U.S. oil supplies" and "...denies Americans access to some of our nation's most promising energy resources" that could be brought to market the fastest, Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute, wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi has argued that the drilling proposal is a "reasonable compromise" with those who demand more offshore drilling. She also said oil companies should give up some of their tax subsidies in return for wider access to the government's energy resources.
Read more

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Explosion probe faults gas company

By GARY REAVES - WFAA-TV - Wednesday, August 6, 2008
MCKINNEY — Almost three months after an explosion destroyed three McKinney homes and just nine days after Nancy Foster died from burns she endured in the blast, the Texas Railroad Commission announced they discovered numerous violations made by the gas line company and its contractor.

During their three-month probe, the commission said they discovered six rule violations made by Atmos and two more violations by its contractor, M. J. Sheridan.

The Foster family's lawyer, Frank Branson, said they are outraged.

"They ignored the rules before the explosion," he said. "They ignored the rules that caused the explosion and they ignored the rules on how you investigate and record the data."

The tragedy started when the gas company's approved contractor, M J Sheridan, punctured a three-inch gas line with a boring machine. Rules require that when they get within 12 inches of the line, they shut down the machine and dig by hand.

From there, the report stated the mistakes multiplied.

While the line was cut at 4:30 p.m., no one called 911 until 5:38 p.m., which was after the explosions began. In that crucial hour, the on-scene inspector failed to test sewer lines for gas and failed to order evacuations. Afterwards, Atmos failed to give drug and alcohol tests to the work crew.

The Foster family said they are suing for justice and answers.

"We supports our employees who we believe took appropriate actions at the time of the incident," read a statement released by Atmos. "We also have high standards for our contractors ... We continue to review our practices and protocols."
Read more on WFAA
The report is preliminary and Atmos and the contractor have 30 days to respond.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fort Worth Residents Rally Support for Moratorium on Barnett Shale

While John McCain is trying to sell his energy policy of “Drill here. Drill now. Drill. Drill. Drill…” those affected by the devastation of the Domestic Drilling Agenda are calling for a moratorium.

Fort Worth woke up just in time to discover the free money promised to them by Chesapeake Energy landmen comes with a high price. Chesapeake Energy wants to run high pressure—100 psi minimum—gas pipelines through Fort Worth Neighborhoods. The highly corrosive, raw, wet gas can eat through a new pipeline in 3 or 4 years and is unodorized, invisible and extremely explosive.

Chesapeake, a private company, is using eminent domain to take yards and sometimes the entire home for their profit. Eminent domain should be used only for public gain with no private stakeholders.

If you are in the Barnett Shale area, you should try to attend this rally and learn from the mistakes made by Fort Worth residents.

The Fort Worth Coalition for a Reformed Drilling Ordinance (CREDO) is made up of individuals and groups who are concerned that gas production in Fort Worth is proceeding without adequate consideration of long-term impacts

CREDO believes the City is obligated to assure the safety and well being of its citizens above all other considerations

CREDO calls for a City-imposed moratorium on gas well permitting until:
  • Plans are in place to accomodate the total impact of urban gas production over the life of the activity

  • Post-depletion planning is in place to protect future residents

  • Planning for gas production is integrated with the city's Comprehensive Plan and other appropriate plans

  • Regulations are in place to assure safe operation of the total gas production activity

Click Here for Details about the Call for a Moratorium

Pipelines are dangerous:

In 1937, the New London School Explosion killed 300 – 400 children and teachers.

A Palo Pinto County gas well explosion in 2005 left a crater the size of a football field. The flash was seen 100 miles away.

An explosion in Forest Hill caused 500 homes to be evacuated in 2006.

Other unresolved issues of concern?
  • Infrastructure and quality of life impacts of drilling and fracking operations over the life of a well

  • Pipeline routing and the questionable use of Eminent Domain

  • Public safety, from drilling through production and long term degradation of the gas production infrastructure

  • Water use, waste transport and disposal

  • Effects of gas production on property values, insurance rates, future development, etc.

  • Economic parity for those who signed leases early without organized efforts

  • Air quality including release of hazardous compounds

  • Impacts on public parks and loss of other important green space

Bring a burger and spend your lunch hour with us!

Heed this warning Hanesville Shale and Marcellus Shale residents. Learn from the mistakes of Fort Worth.

This is also on Texas Kaos and Burnt Orange Report.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Time, It's Different - Global Pressures Have Converged to Forge a New Oil Reality

By Steven Mufson - Washington Post Staff Writer - Sunday, July 27, 2008
The two events, half a world apart, went largely unheralded.

Early this month, Valero Energy in Texas got the unwelcome news that Mexico would be cutting supplies to one of the company's Gulf Coast refineries by up to 15 percent. Mexico's state-owned oil enterprise is one of Valero's main sources of crude, but oil output from Mexican fields, including the giant Cantarell field, is drying up. Mexican sales of crude oil to the United States have plunged to their lowest level in more than a dozen years.

The same week, India's Tata Motors announced it was expanding its plans to begin producing a new $2,500 "people's car" called the Nano in the fall. The company hopes that by making automobiles affordable for people in India and elsewhere, it could eventually sell 1 million of them a year.

Although neither development made headlines, together they were emblematic of the larger forces of supply and demand that have sent world oil prices bursting through one record level after another. And while the cost of crude has surged before, this oil shock is different. There is little prospect that drivers will ever again see gas prices retreat to the levels they enjoyed for much of the last generation.

Unlike the two short, sharp oil jolts of the 1970s, the latest run-up has been accelerating over several years as ample supplies of crude oil have proven elusive and the thirst for petroleum products has grown. The average price of a barrel of oil produced by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries doubled from 2001 to 2005, doubled again by March this year and jumped as much as 40 percent more after that.

For American motorists, a full tank of gas costs nearly twice what it did at the start of last year, racing past the $4-a-gallon mark, and has begun cutting into other household spending.

"What can you do? You need gas," said Barry Modeste, a construction worker who stopped his van at a Shell station in Takoma Park one recent morning to add $15 worth. It was enough, he said, to get him to a cheaper station in Rockville. "If you don't have gas, you can't get to work. And if you can't get to work, you don't get paid. And if you don't get paid, you can't buy food. We're at their mercy."

Last month, 51 percent of the respondents in a Washington Post poll said rising gas prices were causing a serious financial hardship for them or others in their household. It was the first time a majority had said that since the poll began posing that question eight years ago.

The rising prices are also adding to inflation, aggravating the U.S. trade deficit -- oil now accounts for about half of it -- and taking a toll on businesses already struggling with the economic slowdown caused by the housing and financial crises.

"I'm a very small businessman. If I get any smaller, I'll be out of business," said independent trucker Lee Klass, who was driving through the Texas Panhandle this month with a 33,000-pound load of plastic containers bound for Colorado. Klass had just paid $636 for fuel, enough for the trip but no more. Filling the tank would cost nearly twice that much.

Abroad, riots shook India after the government trimmed fuel subsidies. Truckers in Britain, France, Spain and South Korea have clogged the roads to protest rising fuel prices. In the Philippines, soaring prices for oil and petroleum-based fertilizer have derailed the economy and ignited calls for a cut in the tax on oil imports. With her popularity at a record low, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is expected to confront the issue in a nationally televised speech scheduled for tomorrow.

Even after oil prices have tumbled more than $24 in the past two weeks, largely as the result of easing tensions in the Middle East and slowing U.S. economic activity, crude is still trading near historic highs.

In a series of articles starting today, The Washington Post examines the economic forces that have unhinged oil prices from their longtime cyclical patterns, propelling fuel costs to once unimaginable levels that are now both fraying the lifestyles of our recent past and speeding the search for an energy source of the future.

Read the entire article and other parts of the series in the Washington Post.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cheney's Staff Cut Testimony On Warming

Health Threats at Issue, Ex-EPA Official Says
By Juliet Eilperin - Washington Post Staff Writer - Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Members of Vice President Cheney's staff censored congressional testimony by a top federal official about health threats posed by global warming, a former Environmental Protection Agency official said yesterday.

In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett said an official from Cheney's office ordered last October that six pages be edited out of the testimony of Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gerberding had planned to say that the "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern."

Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the administration sought the changes for fear that Gerberding's testimony could trigger new controls under the Clean Air Act that would regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. The White House has opposed mandatory limits and has insisted that voluntary measures and increased research are the best ways to address the issue.

"The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony," Burnett, 31, a Stanford-trained economist and a Democrat, wrote in response to an inquiry from Boxer's committee. "CEQ requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change."

Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, reported at the time of Gerberding's testimony that the administration had revised her proposed remarks. White House officials justified the changes by citing doubts about the scientific basis of her testimony.

Burnett -- a grandson of high-tech entrepreneur David Packard and a member of the Packard Foundation's board of trustees -- has given more than $129,000 to Democratic campaigns in recent years, including $3,600 to presidential candidate Barack Obama (Ill.). He did not identify who in the vice president's office had called him.

"I'm not interested in pointing fingers at any individual," he said at a news conference with Boxer, adding that he is focused on how the government will address climate change in response to a Supreme Court decision last year requiring the EPA to deal with rising carbon dioxide emissions. "I'm interested in helping inform the next administration to help make those decisions, while recognizing Congress could act to pass a better law."

Boxer demanded that, in light of Burnett's allegations, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson turn over "every document related to the agency's finding that global warming poses a danger to the public" -- a determination the EPA reached late last year in a document that has never been made public. On that basis, the senator said, the agency must issue regulations to limit the emissions.

The White House declined to open the EPA e-mail containing that finding, which Burnett sent on Dec. 5, leaving the recommendation in limbo. Burnett was responsible for climate change issues at EPA.

"I'm calling on Mr. Johnson to act now, and if he doesn't have the courage or the strength or determination to act, he should resign," Boxer said.

EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said Johnson will not provide the documents, but added that Boxer and others will be able to read about the agency's findings in detail when it releases its proposed regulation of greenhouse gases, expected within days.

"The administrator is glad to see Senator Boxer agrees that we need a robust and complete advance notice of proposed rulemaking that will come out as soon as Friday," Shradar said, adding that "a lot of those documents" Boxer is seeking will be in the proposal. "I don't know if she's just now working on her summer reading list or what."

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said that any changes to Gerberding's planned testimony were made "during the normal editing process" and that she "spoke openly and fully without constraint" while testifying before the Senate.

Frank O'Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said the revelations confirmed that the vice president has been steering environmental policy during President Bush's tenure

"For years, we've suspected that Cheney was the puppeteer for administration policy on global warming," O'Donnell said. "This kiss-and-tell account appears to confirm the worst."


Read more in the Washington Post

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chesapeake may walk away from Fort Worth site

By JIM FUQUAY - Fort Worth Star Telegram - July 2, 2008
Chesapeake Energy on Tuesday asked the city of Fort Worth to postpone a hearing set for next week on its request for a high-impact drilling permit off Eighth Avenue, near the Berkeley Place and Ryan Place neighborhoods, and indicated that it could back away from the site.

The delay means Chesapeake could lose its lease on the site, which expires Aug. 10, unless it can obtain an extension from the landowner, Fort Worth & Western Railroad. It had intended to use the location, at 2520 Eighth Ave., to drill at least two wells under the railroad’s right-of-way, a nearby church and an apartment complex, according to filings with the Texas Railroad Commission.

The move follows a meeting Monday of Chesapeake officials, neighborhood leaders and railroad representatives. It was the latest in a series of meetings to discuss neighborhood concerns about safety and environmental issues.

Julie Wilson, Chesapeake’s top executive in the Barnett Shale, said Tuesday that the company is prepared to walk away from the lease if it cannot reach a consensus with neighborhood leaders on an acceptable drilling and development plan.

"That doesn’t mean we ever expect to get 100 percent support," Wilson said. "But we did say that, yes, we want the leadership of the neighborhoods to support this."

At the same time, she said, "we don’t want battles in city hall" over the granting of a high-impact drilling permit, which Chesapeake is required to obtain because homes are within the 600-foot buffer required by the city’s drilling ordinance. Chesapeake has been unable to obtain waivers from all property owners within that buffer, making a waiver from the City Council its only option.

The company has not withdrawn its application for a drilling permit at the site.

Council member Joel Burns, who represents the neighborhoods, said that although the issue is not yet resolved, he’s pleased with Chesapeake’s action to postpone what promised to be a contentious hearing.

"They have reached out aggressively in the last month. Unfortunately, a month was not nearly enough time to resolve all these issues," he said.

Neighborhood leaders said they were encouraged by Chesapeake’s approach to the controversy.

"They have a totally new attitude in terms of working with the neighborhoods," said Bill Hall, who attended the meetings as an organizer of the Joint Neighborhood Committee, formed last year to deal with mineral-rights leasing concerns.

Dan Roberts, who attended the meeting as a representative of Ryan Place Improvement Association, said that although he’s not convinced that the company fully appreciates the depth of opposition to drilling at the site, "they’re miles from where they were."

Complicating the issue are comments by railroad representatives who said they will explore other, possibly more intensive, uses at the drill site if it is not used for a gas well. An attorney for the railroad declined to comment on possible plans. But people at the meetings said they include freight storage or rail-car loading.
Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pipeline companies’ right to condemn land may be questioned

By MIKE LEE - The Fort Worth Star Telegram - June 22, 2008
When a gas drilling company wants a piece of land for a pipeline, its representative usually shows up at the owner’s door with a letter from the Texas Railroad Commission, stating that the company has a right to take the land.

Pipeline companies can condemn land because they’re considered either utility companies, which serve the public the same as Atmos or TXU, or "common carriers," a legal term that means they carry oil or gas for anyone.

Major gas companies have formed their own pipeline divisions as they seek routes for gathering pipelines to serve the Barnett Shale. These divisions have the power to condemn land.

However, several local lawyers specializing in pipeline and condemnation matters question whether these divisions should have that power because these pipelines typically serve only one company.

"In order to determine the ultimate answer to that question, somebody’s going to have to get some of these landowners together and challenge this," said Jim Bradbury, a pipeline lawyer who serves on Fort Worth’s gas drilling task force.

Captive utilities

The laws that allow pipeline companies to condemn land were written decades ago, when there was a greater division between the oil business and the pipeline business, said Glenn Sodd, a Corsicana lawyer who specializes in condemnation cases.

Chesapeake Energy’s pipeline division, Texas Midstream Gas Services, was created in 2006 and got its permit from the Railroad Commission in 2007, records show.

XTO Energy acquired its pipeline division, Barnett Gathering, from Antero Resources in 2005 and got a permit from the Railroad Commission in 2006, records show.

The commission issues permits, known as T-4s, that designate a company as a gas utility or common carrier. But commission officials say it isn’t responsible for deciding who gets the power to condemn land.

Spokeswoman Ramona Nye said that the commission has never denied a permit and that the agency gives them out only for administrative purposes.

"A pipeline is a common carrier or gas utility by virtue of their business organization, business activities, and they way they hold themselves out as conducting their business under Texas statutes," she said in an e-mail.

The question is whether "captive utilities" fit the traditional definition of a common carrier, since they carry gas for only one company.

"It’s uncharted territory, as far as I know," said Rick Disney, a Fort Worth lawyer who has handled pipeline cases.

Julie Wilson, vice president of Barnett Shale operations for Chesapeake Energy, said there’s no question that the company’s pipeline division is a gas utility, which gives it the right to condemn land.

"Ownership is irrelevant to a gas utility, so long as you receive the designation of a gas utility company," she said.

Charles Fiscus, a Dallas attorney who also works on condemnation issues, agreed with Wilson. Even if a pipeline serves only one company, it might still be a common carrier, the same way a trucking company might still be a common carrier even though all its trucks are leased to one customer, he said.

"Until there is a determination that a common carrier means you must offer your services to the public and you cannot contract your services to one person, I think there’s an ability to do that," he said.

Wilson said Chesapeake could probably ship other producers’ gas, "provided there’s capacity."

Pipeline power

Pipeline companies have wider condemnation power than a city or an electric company.

When a city wants to condemn land, it is required to have the property appraised.

When an electric company wants to condemn land, it has to file its route with the Public Utility Commission and submit alternate routes, Sodd said.

A pipeline company can condemn land without taking either of those steps, Sodd said.

The Legislature passed a law in 2007 that would have given landowners more rights in all types of condemnation, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it. The law would have required companies or governments to make a "bona fide offer" — an offer close to fair market value — for the land before beginning condemnation proceedings.

Matt Miller, executive director of the Institute for Justice-Texas, which advocates for landowner rights, said the Barnett Shale drilling boom might affect enough people to force the Legislature to act again.

"That has to be a legislative fix," he said. "They’re using the fact that we’re facing an energy crisis to push the issue."

City regulation

In the meantime, Fort Worth’s task force is discussing what, if anything, the city can do to regulate pipelines and possibly give homeowners a recourse.

In an April letter to the Mayor and City Council, Assistant City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider wrote that the city can do little about pipelines because they’re already regulated by state and federal agencies.

Southlake and Flower Mound have passed ordinances that require pipeline companies to file detailed maps of their routes.

Southlake requires pipeline companies to get a permit before they begin work. And there are additional requirements for pipelines that aren’t covered by the state and federal government, including "a description of the consideration given to matters of public safety and the avoidance, as far as possible, of existing habitable structures."

Fort Worth’s gas task force is scheduled to discuss the Southlake ordinance when it begins considering pipeline regulations in the next few weeks.

Sodd said the city should use its zoning authority to require pipelines to steer clear of neighborhoods.

"If I tried to build a business in a residential neighborhood, you would see the Planning and Zoning Commission of the city come down on me," he said.

Fullenwider said it’s not clear whether Fort Worth can adopt regulations similar to Southlake’s without getting sued.

"The issue is going to be what happens if the pipeline company refuses to get a permit — cities are going to be in an interesting position," she said.

And the city can’t curtail the pipeline company’s power to condemn land.

Wilson, of Chesapeake, said she thinks Southlake’s ordinance is "in direct violation of state and federal laws and regulations." She said the same would apply if Fort Worth tried to adopt similar regulations.

Even revealing pipeline routes the way Southlake and Flower Mound require would be problematic, Wilson said. The company would lose its flexibility in selecting routes and might be forced to condemn more property, she said. Also, just as it’s common for land speculators to buy property in the path of a proposed highway, the same thing could happen if pipeline companies publicized their routes.

One situation in which the city has some control is when a pipeline company needs to cross a city street. Utilities can’t condemn streets, and city officials have used that advantage to negotiate the routes of a few pipelines.

But, Wilson said, "the city is not allowed to unreasonably withhold approval, either."


Eminent domain
Eminent domain is the legal term for the process that governments and private companies such as utilities use to acquire land. Pipeline companies and government agencies are required to pay for land they take. Here’s a look at how it works.

Informal negotiation The process differs depending on whether the government or a company is taking a piece of land. Government agencies typically must have the land appraised and show the appraisal to the landowner. When a pipeline company wants a piece of land, a right-of-way agent typically approaches landowners and makes an initial offer, but there’s not always a formal appraisal.

The company is not condemning the land at this point, even though the company typically shows landowners a letter stating that it has the power of eminent domain. A spokeswoman for Chesapeake said the company typically acquires 80 percent of its land at this phase, before any court action.

Condemnation suit If the two sides can’t agree on a value, the company or government that wants the land can file a condemnation suit in a county court at law.

At that point, the judge appoints a group of "special commissioners," who are usually real estate agents or lawyers with real estate experience. The commissioners listen to testimony and determine the value of the land. They can also determine if a landowner should be compensated for other damages, such as the decrease in value to the rest of his or her property.

A landowner is restricted in the evidence he or she can present at this phase. For instance, landowners can’t challenge the government’s or a company’s right to take their land, or complain about quality-of-life issues, said Glenn Sodd, a lawyer who specializes in condemnations.

But they can present appraisals and expert testimony that show how much the land is worth.

Landowners can have their case heard by a jury if they aren’t happy with the value set by the commissioners.

Appeal to District Court Landowners can challenge a county court at law verdict in state District Court.

At this level, a landowner can challenge the government’s or company’s right to take land. An owner can also argue that the seizure is "arbitrary and capricious."

But "that is a very, very tough burden," said Charles Fiscus, a Dallas attorney who handles condemnation cases.

Sources: Star-Telegram research, Texas attorney general’s office

The issue is going to be what happens if the pipeline company refuses to get a permit.

Sarah Fullenwider,
assistant Fort Worth city attorney

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pre-Buy Electric customers are switched to other providers after firm defaults

By ELIZABETH SOUDER - The Dallas Morning News - Monday, May 19, 2008

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is switching customers of Pre-Buy Electric LLC to other retail electricity providers after the company defaulted on some payments to the state’s grid operator.

It’s the first time ERCOT has used its automated switching process for a mass customer transition.

ERCOT said in a statement Monday that Pre-Buy, based in Bridgeport, Texas, defaulted on payments on Friday.

ERCOT began switching the company’s 8,430 customers to default providers on Saturday, and expects to finish the switches Monday.

The customer count includes 8,394 residential customers, ERCOT said.

Pre-Buy officials didn’t answer calls to the customer service line or respond to an e-mail on Monday.

Customers who are switched to the default provider, known as the provider of last resort, may face higher electricity prices. The default provider system is designed to ensure customers don’t lost electricity service while they search for a new provider.

ERCOT said that both Pre-Buy and the default electricity providers must notify customers of the switch.

Customers may contact the Public Utility Commission consumer hotline, 1-888-782-8477, or go to the PUC website: www.puc.state.tx.us/ocp/index.cfm.

Read more in the Dallas Morning News

Sunday, May 18, 2008

VIEWPOINT: The Reason for High Oil Prices - It's not a supply crisis that explains the sharp spike in oil prices. It's unregulated commodities market

By Ed Wallace - Business Week - May 13, 2008

"One of the things I think is very important to realize is that the growth in the world oil consumption is not that strong." —David Kelly, chief market strategist, J.P. Morgan Funds; The Washington Post, May 4, 2008

"...There is substantial evidence that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased [oil] prices." —U.S. Senate Staff Report, The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices, June 27, 2006

On May 13, the price of a barrel of oil briefly hit a record of $126.98 on the New York Mercantile Exchange The reason was ostensibly that Iran was cutting oil production. But there is no gas shortage. So why are prices still going up?

In late April the American Association of Petroleum Geologists held its annual invitation-only dinner in Dallas for, as my source put it, "the bigwigs" of the energy industry. During this meeting, influential and knowledgeable CEOs reached the consensus that "oil prices will likely soon drop dramatically and the long-term price increases will be in natural gas." Of course, despite the pedigrees of those in attendance, their forming a consensus on the direction of energy prices does not mean that it's written in stone or is even going to happen. The group is clearly bullish on natural gas. But petroleum keeps getting more expensive.

The energy executives' prediction about the future price for crude oil had sound backing. Just a few days earlier, Lehman Brothers (LEH) investment bank had said that this current oil pricing boom was quickly coming to an end. Michael Waldron, the bank's chief oil strategist, was quoted in Britain's Daily Telegraph on Apr. 24 as saying: "[Oil supply] is outpacing demand growth." Waldron added, "Inventories have been building since the beginning of the year. The Saudi Khursaniya field has just opened, with 500,000 barrels a day of production, and the new Khurais field will start next year with a further 1.2 million b/d [barrels a day]."

No Lines at the Pump
Waldron's assertion rang true. In the U.S. alone, stockpiles of oil climbed by 11.9 million barrels in the month preceding the Energy Information Agency's (EIA) May 7 inventory report; they were up by nearly 33 million barrels since Jan. 1. At the same time, MasterCard's (MA) May 7 gasoline report showed that gas demand has fallen by 5.8%, while the government suggested that gasoline consumption might have fallen by slightly over 6%.

We do know that refineries in the U.S. again cut back their utilization to 85%. That's down from 89% a year ago, in a season when production is normally 95%, only because they're trying to draw down gasoline inventories to bid gasoline prices up. Yet despite the reduced refinery runs, the EIA said, the U.S. managed to put another 800,000 barrels of gasoline in stock. The American Petroleum Institute put the gas gain at 1.4 million barrels. The point is that neither organization is in disagreement that gasoline was added into our active stocks; it's just a question of exactly how much.

Only the day before, the EIA had released its monthly Short Term Energy Outlook report, concluding that U.S. oil demand is expected to decline by 190,000 b/d in 2008. Chinese consumption is expected to rise this year by only 400,000 b/d—hardly the "surging oil demand" usually blamed on China in the media. Last year China imported 3.2 million barrels per day, and its estimated usage was around 7 million b/d total. The U.S., by contrast, consumes around 20.7 million b/d.

The May 8 report from Oil Movements, a British company that tracks oil shipments worldwide, shows that oil in transit on the high seas is quite strong; almost every category of shipment is running higher than it was a year ago. The one exception was oil shipments to the West during the previous 30 days. Even there, on page three of that report, comes the cryptic line, "In the West, a big share of any [oil] stock building done this year has happened offshore, out of sight." Oil Movements' Roy Mason qualified that line: "Oil in temporary floating storage offshore is hard to pin down, and we don't have useful info on that. Whenever this happens it generates market noise—and we don't hear any!"

Still, the consensus of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the energy executives may be right: No supply crisis justifies the way the world's oil is being priced today.

The Truth and Nothing but the (Partial) Truth
So how to explain the May 6 report from Reuters (TRI) that Goldman Sachs (GS) announced that oil could in fact be on the verge of another "super spike," possibly taking oil as high as $200 a barrel within the next six to 24 months? Forget the fact that few other oil analysts agreed with that position, "$200 a barrel!" was the major news story on oil for the next two days. Arjun Murti, Goldman Sachs' energy strategist, predictably laid the blame on "blistering" demand from China and the Middle East, combined with his belief that the Middle East is nearing its maximum ability to produce more oil. While the outside chance exists that Murti is right, his prediction certainly isn't backed up by the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook, or by Lehman Brothers' report from 10 days earlier. As for the Middle East being tapped out on oil production, there might be one more thing to consider.

On May 2, the Friday before this prediction made news, Bloomberg had reported that Iran is again storing its heavy crude on tankers in the Persian Gulf because the country has run out of onshore storage tanks while awaiting buyers. Further, Saudi Arabia has extended discounts on its sour crudes to $7.45 for Arabian Heavy. Doesn't sound like there's any real supply problem with that grade of crude, does it?

It is an understatement to say that over the last five years the media have rained reports predicting an impending energy Armageddon. But those reports have tended not to disclose their sources—which often were individuals heavily invested in the oil futures market.

For example, Goldman Sachs was one of the founding partners of online commodities and futures marketplace Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). And ICE has been a primary focus of recent congressional investigations; it was named both in the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' June 27, 2006, Staff Report and in the House Committee on Energy & Commerce's hearing last December. Those investigations looked into the unregulated trading in energy futures, and both concluded that energy prices' climb to stratospheric heights has been driven by the billions of dollars' worth of oil and natural gas futures contracts being placed on the ICE—which is not regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

Deceptive Practices
In case you've forgotten, it was only 2001 when BusinessWeekreported that some Wall Street firms were hard-selling to the public stocks that their companies were quietly divesting—and/or pushing questionable stocks for companies in which their affiliated banks had a financial interest. In a nutshell, some individuals with a specific vested interest in a certain financial outcome used the media to enrich themselves and their companies, leaving the public investor holding the bag.

Once that deception was uncovered (after the stock market collapsed), and after the congressional hearings in 2001 proved beyond any doubt that these things had happened, the national media swore that they would never again be taken in by this type of corporate deceit. Then came 2004 and oil.

As the second quote at the beginning of this column makes clear, the Senate pointed out in its 2006 report that oil reserves (not including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) were at a 20-year high during the time that report was written; therefore, there was no shortage of oil whatsoever. This seemed to confirm a Jan. 10, 2007, article in Reuters that quoted Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi: "We've got a short-term [oil] oversupply problem." Yes, an oil oversupply problem in fall of 2006.

Then, as now, that certainly isn't what we were being told. Instead we were being bombarded daily in the media and analysts' reports with justifications for the high price of oil: The "terrorism premium" on each barrel of oil, the rising demand of China and India, troubles in the Nigerian oil patch, oil pipelines' being blown up in Iraq, wider war in the Middle East, T. Boone Pickens' warnings that the world was on the cusp of Peak Oil, "surging demand" for gasoline in the U.S., the weak dollar—and so on. (Peak oil is described as the world crossing the halfway mark for extracting its oil reserves. It is not maximum production.) However, the Senate took a dim view of those excuses, particularly the ones about Peak Oil or diminished capacity for oil production: "There's a few hedge fund managers out there who are masters at knowing how to exploit the peak [oil] theories and hot buttons of supply and demand, and by making bold predictions of shocking price advancements to come, they only add more fuel to the bullish fire in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy." (The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices, U.S. Senate, June 27, 2006).

Yes, this line suggests that persons invested in the oil futures market are purposely driving even more money into oil to raise the prices even higher, even though the market's actual supply and demand in no way justifies their claims. On a side note, Enron is named frequently in both investigations as exemplifying this type of energy market manipulation.

And, although both the Senate and the House have already investigated why oil is selling for more than supply and demand dictate, on May 12 we found out that the House Energy & Commerce Committee will look at this issue once again this month and into June.

Let's give Congress a little direction.

Covering Their Losses?
Commodities have often been the refuge for investors who have lost money on equities or fixed-income investments. Moreover, the commodities rush today is not limited to oil; now we also have runaway food and feed prices. Could it be that all the financial losses on subprime mortgages, plus the anticipation that the option ARM mortgages about to reset could be an even bigger problem, combined with the huge losses in securities last year, are why investment money today is flooding into often unregulated commodities, where the demand pricing of the final goods is inelastic?

Consider this: You may not buy gasoline or even eat today, but by next Monday you'll probably have to do both, no matter what it costs. Basically, besides enabling the Fed to bail out Wall Street and our banks again, every time you gas up or eat you may be paying investors to cover other financial losses. We know that investors can't control their losses on mortgages, securities, or bad loans. But, demonstrably, if not restrained they can drive up the price of goods that we can't get out of buying. Odds are, that's what's really been going on.

Ed Wallace holds a Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, bestowed by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA. His column heads the Sunday Drive section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and he is a member of the American Historical Society. The automotive expert for KDFW Fox 4 in Dallas, Wallace hosts the top-rated talk show Wheels, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 570 KLIF AM in Dallas.
Read more in Business Week

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

AP water probe prompts Senate hearings

By MARTHA MENDOZA - AP National Writer - Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008
Two veteran U.S. senators said they plan to hold hearings in response to an Associated Press investigation into the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

Also, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has asked the EPA to establish a national task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations to Congress on any legislative actions needed.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said Monday the oversight hearings would likely be held in April.

Boxer, D-Calif., said she was "alarmed at the news" that pharmaceuticals are turning up in the nation's drinking water, while Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who said he was "deeply concerned" by the AP findings, both represent states where pharmaceuticals had been detected in drinking water supplies, but not disclosed to the public.

"I call on the EPA to take whatever steps are necessary to keep our communities safe," said Boxer in a statement.

Added Lautenberg, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over drinking water issues: "Our families deserve water that is clean and safe. Our hearing will examine these problems and help ensure the EPA and Congress take the steps necessary to protect our residents and clean up our water supply."

EPA spokesman Timothy Lyons said the agency is "committed to keeping the nation's water supply clean, safe and the best in the world. We encourage all Americans to be responsible when disposing of prescription drugs."

The Lautenberg-Boxer announcement came just 24 hours after the AP's release of the first installment of its three-part series, titled PharmaWater.

The five-month-long inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team found that while water is screened for drugs by some suppliers, they usually don't tell their customers that they have found medication in it, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones.

The series shows how drugs — mostly the residue of medications taken by people, excreted and flushed down the toilet — have gotten into the water supplies of at least 24 major metropolitan areas, from Southern California to northern New Jersey. The stories also detail the growing concerns among scientists that this pollution has adversely affected wildlife, and may threaten human health.

In a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, Schwartz said, "Like many Pennsylvanians, I was especially taken aback by the finding of 56 different pharmaceuticals discovered in the drinking water for the City of Philadelphia.. . . The Associated Press report raises serious questions about the safety and security of America's water system."

Read more on AP

Arlington, Texas municipal water is one city which has tested positive for pharmaceuticals. Read more on The Arlington Texan.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lack of scrutiny for Tarrant County gas wells questioned - 30% in Tarrant have not seen state scrutiny in past 5 years

By Mike Lee, and Jeff Claassen - Star-Telegram Staff Writer

In Fort Worth, restaurants get inspected by the Health Department at least once a year.

Construction sites are inspected from stakeout to top-out.

The one thing that may not be inspected is a natural gas well.

About 30 percent of the gas wells operating in Tarrant County have not been inspected within the past five years. The inspections are the responsibility of the Texas Railroad Commission, which enforces safety and environmental rules for gas drilling.

Neighborhood groups and local officials say they want the state to step up and do its part, particularly since cities cannot impose stricter safety rules than the state.

Matthew Hudson, past president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods, used the analogy of a building permit. He recently paid more than $800 in permit fees to build an addition to his home, and the addition had to be inspected more than a dozen times.

"It makes sense that when somebody files a permit to drill, that there's enough money in that permit fee to do these inspections," Hudson said.

It actually costs less to get a drilling permit than Hudson paid for his building permit. The maximum fee, set by the Legislature in 2001, is $300, and the total can rise to $650 if a drilling company asks for an expedited permit and exceptions to density rules. By law, that money goes to a state fund to clean up plugged wells and other environmental problems.

The issue of inspections was first raised in a report by the state auditor's office, which came out in August. The report said 46 percent of the oil and gas wells statewide had not been inspected in the previous five years. The report also said Railroad Commission inspectors had chummy relations with the companies they oversaw, often accepting caps, meals and gift baskets.

Fort Worth has its own gas well inspectors, but they can enforce only local rules such as those that govern noise, setbacks, fencing and landscaping. The city inspectors visit every well in Fort Worth annually and can report any problems to the Railroad Commission.

Many in sensitive areas

Railroad Commission officials said at the time of the audit that there is no need to inspect every well, since many of them were plugged or were located in nonproductive fields. They said they had instead tried to concentrate on high-priority inspections, such as wells in environmentally sensitive areas or highly populated areas -- particularly the Barnett Shale field in North Texas.

"If there's a gas well in a rural area, where the water table is not going to be impacted, that well is not going to pose a risk to the environment or public safety," commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said.

But a Star-Telegram analysis of Railroad Commission data for the same period as the state audit found that there are a lot of uninspected wells in Tarrant County. Out of 1,010 active wells in Tarrant County, the commission has inspected 696 and left 314 uninspected. About 180 of the uninspected wells have been drilled since 2005, according to the commission.
Many of the uninspected wells are in highly populated and environmentally sensitive areas:

ZIP code 76179, which includes new subdivisions such as Sendera Ranch, Bonds Ranch and the east side of Eagle Mountain Lake, has 108 uninspected wells out of 392, meaning 28 percent of the wells haven't been inspected.

ZIP code 76248, which includes Keller and parts of Fort Worth, had one of the highest rates of uninspected wells, 48 percent (11 out of 23). That's higher than the Tarrant County average and about the same as the statewide average.

ZIP code 76135, which covers Lake Worth, a major source of drinking water, had a 50 percent rate of uninspected wells -- five out of 10.

Also, each well in the Barnett Shale has a surface casing that runs from the surface to a level below the water table. Each casing has to be installed and sealed with cement to protect the groundwater before drilling can continue. Inspectors didn't check 33 percent of cementing operations in Tarrant County, according to the commission's statistics.

Limited staff available

Richard Varela, the commission's executive director, said the agency does the best it can with limited staff. There are 377,000 wells in Texas, each with associated pipelines, tank batteries and other equipment. And there are only 83 inspectors. That's about 4,500 wells per inspector.

The inspectors try to make up for their lack of numbers by randomly picking wells for important inspections such as surface casings.

"That way, the operator doesn't know when we're going to show up," Varela said.

Also, drilling companies have to submit a detailed report to the commission after each well is completed.

"For all the wells we did not get to check physically, we can do an audit to see if they're at least telling us what was done," Varela said.

The number of field staff (which includes inspectors, well-pluggers and cleanup specialists) has increased about 10 percent, from 125 to 137 since 2002, even as the agency's overall staff has dropped from 803 to 712. But the agency is struggling to keep the positions filled -- there are currently nine vacant field positions -- since the petroleum industry can pay better than the state, Varela said.

During the same five years, the number of active oil and gas wells has climbed by about 9 percent, from 240,357 to 263,057.

It would take a change in state law to add more inspectors or increase permit fees, Varela said.

'They don't protect you'

That's cold comfort for Jerry Bonds and his neighbors near Eagle Mountain Lake.

Bonds' front door is about 250 feet from a cluster of five gas wells operated by Fort Worth-based XTO Energy. The noise, dust and truck traffic have been hard to take, and Bonds figures his 1-acre property is worth about half what it was before the drilling started. There's a double-decker stack of empty cargo containers along his fence line, and a portable toilet next to his driveway.

When it rains, chalky runoff from the site comes down Bonds' driveway, headed for Eagle Mountain Lake, which is a major source of Tarrant County's drinking water. If there's ever an accident, both his home and the wells are at the end of a two-lane blacktop road.

"I want every kind of safety inspection that can be done on it," Bonds said of the gas wells. "My family lives here."

Bonds leased his mineral rights to XTO and got a $1,000 signing bonus, a monthly royalty check and an advance payment for damage. The company asked him not to disclose the damage amount, but he said it's not enough.

"I'd be happy to give them their check back every month," he said.

His next-door neighbor, Lisa Woolsey, pointed out that the wells probably wouldn't be allowed in Fort Worth or other cities, which have limits on how close wells can be to homes.

"The state standards, they don't protect you," she said. "Otherwise, all these other cities wouldn't have these distance limits."

XTO officials didn't return calls seeking comments about Bonds' or Woolsey's situation.

Industry safety record

Joe Waller, president of the Lake Worth Alliance, said he's concerned about wells near the lake where he lives, too. The alliance has been campaigning for more than a year to clean up and dredge Lake Worth, and Waller has asked the city to impose extra restrictions on gas drilling near the lake.

"If one thing should happen out of a thousand, it'd be catastrophic," he said.

Nye, the commission spokeswoman, said the oil and gas industry has a successful safety record, but there have been several incidents in Tarrant County over the last five years, including a blowout at a well in Forest Hill that killed a worker, Robert Gayan.

There have been two other blowouts, one in Haslet in 2002 and one in Fort Worth near Benbrook Lake in 2007. No one was injured in either. All three of the wells had been inspected before the blowouts.

Also in 2007, a contractor at a housing addition cut a 16-inch oil pipeline in southeast Tarrant County, causing a spill of about 420 barrels of oil. About 50 barrels ran into a dry creek bed and pond. About five barrels remained soaked in the ground two weeks later, according to Railroad Commission reports.

The Fort Worth Fire Department has responded to five incidents involving gas wells, Lt. Kent Worley said. Most of those cases involved were minor incidents in which a pressure relief valve was set off; no injuries were reported in any of them.

Mayor wants local office

Mayor Mike Moncrief said he is working with the Railroad Commission to open a satellite office in Fort Worth, with the city possibly providing office space.

Currently, inspectors work from their homes, but the nearest field offices are in Kilgore, Abilene and Wichita Falls.

"They need to be here where all this action is taking place," Moncrief said.

The city and the Railroad Commission are also discussing joint training of each other's gas inspectors.

"This is important, that we really work together and are each other's eyes and ears," Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones said in an interview.

Jones said the commission also does "a lot of work on the front end" to ensure safety before the agency issues a permit.

Colorado: All wells inspected

In Colorado, which is also undergoing a natural gas boom, state regulators inspect every gas well. Colorado inspectors also do spot inspections, said Deb Frazier, spokeswoman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Still, lax inspections are a problem throughout the West, said Gwen Lachelt, director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project in Durango, Colo.

High energy prices have kicked off a drilling boom from Texas to Wyoming, and state regulators are struggling to keep up, both in the number of inspectors and in up-to-date rules. Last year, Colorado passed legislation that expanded the commission's powers. The law added specific language regarding "protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources."

"Most state oil and gas regulations are terribly outdated," Lachelt said. "They need to be revisited, given the recent surge in new drilling activity, especially in areas where this drilling is within a very urban area. There need to be fees or severance taxes in order for states to hire the inspectors."

By the numbers

1,010 gas wells in Tarrant County as of fall 2007.

314 wells not inspected between 2002 and 2007.

696 wells inspected during the same period.

Texas Railroad Commission

The Railroad Commission oversees the oil and gas industry in Texas. It is run by three commissioners, who are elected statewide to six-year terms. Commissioners earn between $92,000 and $137,000 a year.

The three current commissioners each get a substantial amount of their political contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to an analysis of contributions for 2006 by the Web-based watchdog group followthemoney.org.

Chairman Michael Williams, who has been on the commission since 1999, got a third of his contributions -- $138,000 out of $400,000, from people and companies in the oil and gas business, during the 2006 election cycle.

Elizabeth Ames Jones, who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Rick Perry in 2005, also got about a third of her contributions from the oil and gas sector -- $695,000 out of $2.1 million.

Victor Carrillo, who was appointed by Perry in 2003 and re-elected in 2004, got 54 percent of his contributions from the oil and gas sector, $194,000 out of $355,000.

Online: www.followthemoney.org

Texas Railroad Commission, www.rrc.state.tx.us

Gas well inspections

Texas Railroad Commission inspectors make several kinds of checks when they visit a drilling or a completed gas well:

Leaks in the wellhead.

Oil on the ground.

Whether signs are posted correctly.

Whether water sources are protected.

They also make on-site visits when drillers are setting surface casings. At that stage, the well has been drilled to a predesignated depth -- 100 feet below any potable water. A pipe or casing is inserted and cement is pumped into the well until it flows back up the outside of the casing to form a seal between the casing and any water-bearing rock formations. The commission inspected about 67 percent of those operations from 2002 to 2007.

Source: Texas Railroad Commission

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Friday, February 29, 2008

At energy forum, Clinton issues call for cleaner fuels

By DAVID IVANOVICH and LINDSAY WISE - Houston Chronicle - Feb. 29, 2008

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday challenged the oil industry to lead the way to develop cleaner sources of energy to help tackle the nation's growing energy security problem.

"It is time for the oil companies to become energy companies," Clinton said.

Appearing before a crowd of more than 800 at the George R. Brown Convention Center just days ahead of Tuesday's Texas primary, Clinton likened the need to deal with the nation's energy security woes to the beginnings of the space race.

"We will get back to what we did so successfully after Sputnik went up," Clinton said.

Clinton was alone among the presidential hopefuls to join what was largely an energy industry crowd at the Greater Houston Partnership's America's Energy Future: Houston's Presidential Summit.

And despite that audience, she reiterated her pledge to end tax subsidies for the oil companies and to redirect that money to create new energy sources.

"I do not believe that now is the time when subsidies for the oil companies are necessary and appropriate," Clinton said. Instead, "it is now time to subsidize new forms of energy."

Less than two hours later, she attended a rally of an estimated 5,000 enthusiastic supporters in northwest Houston.

Reaction from the summit crowd, by contrast, was polite but fairly tepid, with business leaders remaining largely silent through most of the speech. About 150 members of the general public, who bagged free tickets for the event provided the most exuberant response.

"I thought it was terrific," said Colleen O'Brien of Pearland, who was impressed with the great detail of what Clinton called "more than a plan ... a strategy."

William Sweeney, Jr., vice president of government affairs for EDS, called it a "gutsy speech," coming to Houston to express a point of view that many in the audience didn't share.

With oil prices shooting up nearly $3 on Thursday to set a new record of $102.59 a barrel, Clinton told of meeting a man in largely rural southern Ohio who drives 71 miles to work and said the greatest economic challenge his family faces are gasoline prices.

If elected, Clinton said she would create a new National Energy Council, patterned after the National Economic Council and the National Security Council to deal with energy issues.

Clinton's speech capped off a day-long event featuring top executives addressing topics such as energy supply, conservation and renewable energy sources. And she has a very different view than much of the oil and gas industry.

She opposes, for instance, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — believed to be the largest, untapped oil deposit left onshore in the United States — to oil and gas exploration.

But then her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, as well as John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, likewise oppose opening the refuge to drilling.

Clinton sole candidate to participate
Partnership officials had tried for months to attract all the presidential hopefuls to speak at the energy summit.
"Sen. Clinton is the only presidential candidate who saw the necessity of coming to this great summit," said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, a Clinton supporter. Clinton's presence at the forum "says she's willing to listen. She's willing to engage," Jackson Lee said.

Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister said Houston business leaders were "naturally disappointed" that other candidates declined to attend.

"But we don't tell presidential candidates where to spend their days," Hofmeister said.

While her views may be at odds with the oil and gas industry, Clinton still has received more money from the sector than any of the other remaining presidential hopefuls.

The most recent campaign finance reports filed by the candidates show Clinton has received $792,588 from energy and natural resources sector in this 2008 presidential race, according to the Washington-based watchdog Center for Responsive Politics.

That's more than both Obama — with $727,801 in contributions from the sector — has received and even more than McCain, who has picked up $630,650 in donations, the group said, using Federal Election Commission data released as of Feb. 20.

Rally at Delmar Fieldhouse
Following her summit speech, Clinton attended a late-night rally at the Delmar Fieldhouse in northwest Houston, where she told supporters, who were warmed up before her arrival by a mariachi band and a female Elvis impersonator, that she would win Texas.
"I have a feeling, and it's beginning to grow," Clinton told the crowd. "We are going to make it happen on Tuesday."

A Clinton aide said the campaign estimated 5,000 were drawn to the 6,000-seat arena.

Some like Bob Schoellkoph, 69, and his friend Axel Olsen, 64, arrived three hours before the doors opened to be first in line for the event.

"I've always been a Yellow Dog Democrat, all my life," said Schoellkoph, a real estate agent. "I support Hillary because she can carry on the legacy of President Clinton, which was really super, and she can pull us out of the deep ditch the Republicans got us in."

Read more in the Houston Chronicle

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art Hall Accepts Thousands From Valero PAC, Employees

Hall Previously Claimed Valero Told Him His Wife's Position With The Firm Constituted No Conflict Of Interest
Vince Leibowitz - February 28, 2008

AUSTIN--Former San Antonio City Councilman Art Hall has accepted more than $5,000 in contributions from Valero Energy's political action committee and several of its employees, according to records from the Texas Ethics Commission.

On February 8, Hall received a $5,000 contribution from the Valero Political Action Committee, a PAC notorious for giving thousands of dollars to Texas' most conservative Republicans-- and Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams, the man Hall and Dale Henry (D-Lampasas) seek to replace in the November general election.

In addition to the $5,000 from Valero's PAC, Hall also took more than $2,000 from Valero employees and attorneys in late January and February. According to Hall's most recent filing with the Texas Ethics Commission, he received the following contributions from Valero employees and attorneys:

Robert Bower, Valero Attorney, $500 2/23
Theodore Guidry, Valero employee, $500, 1/26
Diane Hirsch, Valero Attorney, $300, 2/23
Martin Loeber, Valero Attorney, $500, 2/23
Rich Walsh, Valero Attorney, $1,500, 2/23
Parker Wilson, Valero Attorney, $500, 2/23

"The money that Art Hall has accepted from Valero's PAC and its employees is especially troubling given the fact that he is very connected to Valero through the fact that his wife is an attorney for Valero," said Vince Leibowitz, campaign director for Dale Henry, Hall's principal opponent.

According to Hall's Personal Financial Statement on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, Hall's wife owns between 5,000 and 9,999 shares of stock in Valero which, if sold, would represent a net gain of $10,000 to $24,999.

"All of this is especially disturbing given the fact that Art Hall is actually getting advice from Valero on what constitutes a conflict of interest for his campaign," said Leibowitz.

At a forum in Decatur on January 29, Hall was asked if he believed it constituted a conflict of interest that his wife, Stephanie Hall, is an attorney for Valero considering the Railroad Commission regulates the oil and gas industry. Hall told the audience that he had contacted Valero and that he was advised by the company that her work would not constitute a conflict of interest for him.

"Art Hall is getting ethics advice and money from Valero energy. What else is he getting from them? Are they advising him on energy policy as well? Art Hall represents no departure from the current rubber-stamp culture at the Texas Railroad Commission where Commissioners take thousands of dollars from oil company PACs and their employees and then give them whatever they want without regard for the best interest of Texas consumers or the environment," Leibowitz said.

"Valero's PAC is notorious for giving large sums of money to Republicans and pet conservative causes," Leibowitz said. "Valero has given Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams $20,000. Now Art Hall is taking Valero's money and telling Texans that he will bring 'balance' to the Texas Railroad Commission. What kind of 'balance' is that, exactly? The kind of 'balance' where Hall will simply be another hand out taking money from the oil industry? That's not 'balance,' that is merely more of the same," Leibowitz continued.

Valero has given incumbent Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams $10,000 on two occasions: once less than a year ago on June 28, 2007, and once on June 7, 2002. Valero has also contributed to some of Texans most anti-consumer, counter-progressive Republicans and Republican causes.

The company's PAC gave $15,000 to Tom Craddick's "Stars Over Texas" Leadership PAC ($10,000 on 10/11/06 and $5,000 on 10/25/04), and $30,000 to Speaker Craddick's personal campaign account since 2004 ($10,000 on 11/08/05 and $10,000 on 11/5/07, and $10,000 on 11/10/04). A small sampling of Valero's contributions to Republicans include:

Texas Conservative Coalition ($2,500 on 9/10/07)
Former State Rep. Joe Nixon ($1,000 on 3/5/04)
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst ($10,000 on 11/6/03)
Attorney General Greg Abbott ($10,000 on 7/11/03)
Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo ($5,000 on 1/29/04)
U.S. Senator John Cornyn ($2,500 while Cornyn was Texas' AG on 11/7/2000)
State Rep. Phil King ($2,500 on 10/23/07)
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples ($5,000 on 11/27/07)
Former State Rep. Talmadge Heflin ($1,000 on 11/9/04)

The Valero-tied contributions aren't the only suspect contributions Hall has received as a candidate. While on the San Antonio City Council, Hall accepted money from executives and employees of the HB Zachry company, a San Antonio-based company which has paired with Spanish company Cintra and, in March 2005, signed a comprehensive development agreement authorizing $3.5 million in planning for the first phase of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor. Hall accepted a $500 contribution from HB Zachry on April 26, 2005 and a $250 contribution from J.P. Zachry on August 8, 2005. As a San Antonio City Councilman, Hall also took money from Valero's PAC on May 3, 2005 ($500).

At the January 29 forum in Decatur, Hall also failed to state a position on a question that asked whether or not he favored continued development of the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will include "designated utility zones" which will facilitate the transport of oil and natural gas and could have a significant negative impact on Texas' environment and groundwater.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the March 4 Democratic Primary. The winner of the March 4 Democratic Primary will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams in the general election.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Williams' Acceptance Of Super Bowl Tickets Highlights Need For Contribution Reform For RRC

By Vince Leibowitz - Dale Henry Campaign - Feb. 13, 2008

AUSTIN--Following revelations by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams accepted free Super Bowl tickets from a lobbyist for CenterPoint Energy in 2004, the Dale Henry Campaign released the following statement:
"This episode highlights the need for real campaign finance reform for the Texas Railroad Commission," said Dale Henry (D-Lampasas).

"The Texas Railroad Commissioners should not have such a cozy relationship with the industries they regulate. It just promotes the continued rubber-stamp culture of the Commission. Of course, given the culture of the Texas Railroad Commission, I suppose it should come as no surprise to us that a sitting Railroad Commissioner would take Super Bowl tickets from a CenterPoint Energy Lobbyist and then turn around and vote on cost-of-service rate increases that are passed on directly to consumers," said Vince Leibowitz, Campaign Director.

"This is exactly why I've proposed my "Texans First Campaign Finance Reform" package," said Henry. "The members of the Texas Railroad Commission should not take money from--and should not be beholden to--the industries they regulate. This is why I plan to, as Railroad Commissioner, ask the Texas Legislature to pass a campaign finance bill that will prohibit the practice of Railroad Commissioners accepting money from the industries they regulate," Henry said.

Dale Henry, a petroleum engineer with more than four decades of experience in the oil and gas service industry, is the most experienced candidate in the race for Texas Railroad Commission. Henry is endorsed by State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, The Harris County Democrats, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, The Austin GLBT Political Caucus, Stonewall Democrats of Austin, longtime progressive leader David Van Os and other individuals listed on his campaign website.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the March 4 Democratic Primary. The winner of the March 4 Democratic Primary will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams in the general election.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jim Foster: New initiative will help the county clear the air - A new initiative will get some of the county's heaviest polluters off the road

VBy Jim Foster - Dallas News - \Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why is your neighbor's smoking vehicle the county's business? Because pollution affects the quality of life of our residents and we have the opportunity and responsibility to do something about it.

We all understand that vehicle emissions are responsible for the majority of our air pollution problems. However, recent statistics show that over 300,000 of the 1.6 million vehicle inspections in Dallas County during 2006 were fraudulent, fictitious or improperly done. An estimated 10 percent of the vehicles on the road spew out almost 50 percent of the pollution. The air that we breathe cannot improve if we continue to allow thousands of high polluting vehicles to clog our air.In hopes of tackling the number of high polluting vehicles on our streets, Dallas County has taken the lead in forming an unprecedented coalition of sheriff's deputies, constables, district attorneys and the Texas Department of Public Safety to target and prosecute the inspectors who perform fraudulent emissions inspections. The county's action is not only in support of the State Implementation Plan to bring us within federal air quality standards, but also to make the air that we breathe healthier.

There is no precedent for a countywide effort to tackle fraudulent emissions inspections. However, all indications point toward the huge impact the program will have on our air. The North Central Texas Council of Governments estimates that we reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by .0253 tons per year for every vehicle that we bring into emissions compliance. If this program can directly or indirectly impact just 25,000 vehicles, a fraction of the vehicles not in compliance, we can reduce NOx by over 600 tons per year.

Fraudulent inspections are a detriment to us all. If these illegal operators are shut down, it will force failing vehicles to be repaired or get off the roads, providing cleaner air for everyone.

Many have concerns that elderly citizens or low-income residents unable to afford costly emissions repairs will be targeted in this program. That is not our goal. Participating deputies will be educated about the many resources available to drivers in need of financial assistance, including the state's Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program, which offers up to $600 to repair a vehicle.

The impact of polluting vehicles goes far beyond the few involuntarily coughs forced from our mouths while riding behind a smoking vehicle. The impact can, and often does, last for ages.

More children are being diagnosed for asthma at a younger age. Our hospitals are treating more patients for respiratory ailments, with Parkland Hospital providing the bulk of the care. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has cited a study conducted in Atlanta showing that children's emergency room visits for asthma increased by 37 percent after six prolonged days of high ozone levels.

Remarkably, the public hospital where the study was conducted is located in a county with half the population of Dallas County. The more proactive we are about cleaning the air, the less our children and our aged will have to suffer.

As the "clean air emissions initiative" develops, we will see untold benefits from not having the highest pollution-emitting vehicles illegally operating on our roads. As a regional, state and national model for government coalitions, the Dallas County Clean Air Emissions Advisory Board will work toward a safer, stronger, less polluted county.

And, that is Dallas County's business.
Read more in the Dallas News

Water preservation key issue for Railroad Commissioner Candidate Dale Henry

By Sandra Cason - The Marshall News Messenger - Friday, February 08, 2008

It's all about water, said Dale Henry, Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission.

"My campaign is important for one reason," Henry said, "and that is because the state of Texas is running out of water. It is an abused natural resource and the Railroad Commission has done nothing about it for the past 106 years."

If he is elected in this, his third bid for the seat, Henry said he will be the first commissioner with hands-on experience in oil and gas exploration, the industry for which the commission provides oversight.

Henry faces Art Hall and Mark Thompson in the March 4 Democratic Primary. If he is the party nominee, Henry will face Republican incumbent Michael Williams in the November general election.

A resident of Lampasas, 50 miles west of Austin, and a graduate of University of Texas, Henry is a retired employee of Schlumber J company, having worked in the oil fields of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

"I spent a number of years in research and development and I hold several fracturing patents," Henry said.

"I've been out there and seen it all," he added.

While many people may not stop to think about it that way, Henry pointed out that oil and gas drilling operations have a tremendous impact on ground water.

"Oil and gas activity inherently produces a lot of water," Henry said. "Water is what is used to bring it to the surface, but on its way, the water accumulates contaminated materials."

A common disposal method for the liquid is "to put it back in the ground."

Henry said he learned of a DeBerry preacher whose church hasn't had water in a number of years. "One well was drilled too close to his church and all the wells in the area are contaminated with salt water. You can drill a hundred good ones, but it takes just one bad well to create a whole bunch of problems," Henry said.

Good drilling practices are particularly important at this point in time because so many production companies are now using a horizontal approach.

"There's an area called the Barnett Shale," Henry said. "It is a very thick layer of stone and breaking through it has never made the effort worthwhile until horizontal drilling. That's the key."

In this method, the pipeline goes down for a distance, "turns a corner," and goes under the stone, Henry explained.

This type of drilling uses "millions of gallons of water per day. Sometimes it will be as much as 275,000 gallons," Henry added.

With such large quantities to be disposed of, Henry said it is more important than ever that the Railroad Commission check all drilling permit applications thoroughly, a practice he claims is not currently followed.

"This rubber-stamping has to stop," he said.

Use of environmentally safe drilling practices are especially important to this area because of Caddo Lake, Henry said.

"I've done hands-on work for the Railroad Commission in Caddo — the plugging of abandoned wells. Ninety percent of those I plugged had not be plugged by Railroad Commission rules and regulations the first time around.

"I will make protecting our water a priority for the Texas Railroad Commission," Henry said in a promotional brochure.

"In dry West Texas, the ranchers have to work hard at salvaging water to grow grass with which to feed cattle and produce beef. At the ranch my wife and I have operated for years, we cut the number of production acres needed per cow and calf from 25 acres to 2.5 acres by getting our water to the right place.

"Water's my passion. I know how to do it," Henry said.

"I'm not a politician and I shouldn't have to be involved in this, but the oil and gas companies are polluting our water, soil, and air, and the Railroad Commission simply turns its back and lets it happen.

"Instead of regulating these industries, the three commissioners are raking in campaign contributions from their executives and political action committees and are burying their heads in the sand.

"It's time for change," Henry said. "I need to bring the knowledge I have back to the people, if they'd like me to share it.

"I can do the job. I want the job.

"The petroleum industry is a great benefit to our state's economy, but that should not come at the expense of our environment or our fresh water supply," he said.

Read more in the Marshall News Messenger

Tx RR Commission Candidate - Dale Henry: Protecting state's water a priority

By RANDY ROSS - Longview News-Journal - Friday, February 08, 2008

Protecting the waters of Texas is a priority for Dale Henry.

The 76-year-old Democratic candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission said the production of oil and gas in Texas does not matter if the industry destroys Texas' natural water sources.

"We have to stop wasting and contaminating our water," Henry said.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the Democratic primary election on March 4.

Henry has more than 40 years of experience working in the oil and natural gas fields in the United States and abroad, according to his campaign Web site. He has a bachelor of science degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

"I've been hands-on from the top to the bottom," Henry said. "I more or less speak the language of the oilfield."

The Railroad Commission is the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry and the surface mining of coal. Established by the Legislature in 1891, the commission is the state's oldest regulatory agency, according to the agency's Web site.

The self-described environmentalist from Lampasas is a former city manager and county commissioner. He also founded 4 Arrows, the first cementing service company contracted by the railroad commission.

Henry said his experience in the oil and gas industry make him an ideal candidate for the commission. He said he knows the commission's rules and regulations from working as a contractor, and he would be able to begin working on his first day.

The oil and gas industry has a strong economic impact on the state, he said. That impact has come at a cost to the public, he said.

Henry said the commission has for many years considered the economics of the industry more important than public safety. He said that philosophy has changed in recent years, but it needs to continue to change. He said the commission must consider what is in the public's best interest.

"Environmentally, we have a problem," Henry said.

He said companies often cut corners when installing casing in wells to save money. As time erodes sealing and concrete shifts, water begins flowing and drawing out contaminants.

By forcing companies to install casing properly, Henry said companies would save more money in the long-term by avoiding remedial and repair work.

"These are serious matters," Henry said.

Attempts to reach Republican incumbent Michael Williams for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Read more in the Longview News-Journal

Monday, February 11, 2008

League of Women Voters of Tarrant County Gas Pipeline Recommendations

By League of Women Voters - January 2008
As gas drilling in the Barnett Shale raises concerns about impacts on water, air, land and lives, the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County urges local Cities to adopt a stringent Gas Pipeline Ordinance immediately. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Texas Railroad Commission have authority over gas drilling. The Cities, however, have authority over existing and future land use, including the manner in which gas pipeline easements cross property within their jurisdiction.
The pipeline collection system for natural gas (NG) can be visualized as a network of
pipes in varying sizes, some as large as three feet in diameter. This network carries the gas from the well to initial dewatering tanks, then to pump stations where the line pressure is increased, transporting greater volumes of compressed NG onward to other processing stages (odorizing the NG), and ultimately into a network of distribution lines to end users. Each drill site requires a pipeline feeding into the collection system. As gas wells increase in number, the gas pipelines multiply – intermeshing with or crossing underground electric lines, water pipes and other conduits, several of which cannot share the same trench.

Natural gas is a highly explosive/flammable substance. Development must be limited
around gas transmission pipelines because of the potential for gas pipe failures and/or ruptures, and the resultant explosions and fires. Gas pipeline ruptures are not uncommon.

Obviously, the more pipelines, the more chance for a rupture or failure.
At present, local Cities appear to be granting pipeline easements without knowing where the pipelines will begin or end. In Fort Worth, the proposed route of a two-foot-diameter gas pipeline is along an existing rail corridor where The T plans to operate mass transit and construct transit stations. Fortunately, citizens identified the issue, and a City Council member convened a meeting between The T and the pipeline owner to mitigate potential problems. But initially The T had no way of knowing that the proposed easement through Trinity Park could impact their proposed transit stations in Southwest Fort Worth. When assessing gas pipelines, one must be able to see the big picture, not a single easement.

Gas pipeline ordinances are needed to mitigate the safety and land-use risks associated with such pipelines. Ordinances should, at a minimum, include the requirements listed on the attached page.

Application Requirements
Every gas drilling application shall include:

• Name and address of the pipeline owner or operator and principal contact person.
• Name and telephone number of a 24-hour emergency contact.
• Plans showing the dimensions and locations of the pipelines and related items or
facilities within the subject right-of-way or easement, as well as all proposed lift
stations, pumps or other service structures.
• The origin point and destination of the pipeline and a text description of the
general location of the planned pipeline.
• A description of substance to be transported through the pipeline.
• A copy of the substance Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
• The maximum allowable operating pressure and normal operating pressure.
• Application review by City Engineer, City Attorney, City Manager, and, if
required, the City Council prior to permit/easement approval.

Construction and Repair Requirements
• All pipelines shall be constructed out of new pipe.
• Pipeline trenches shall be double ditch backfilled and constructed at a minimum
depth of thirty-six (36) inches except in public rights-of-way, where the minimum
cover to the top of the pipe shall be at least forty-eight (48) inches.
• The pipeline owner or operator shall give notice forty-eight (48) hours prior to
commencement of pipeline construction to all residents and business
establishments that are located within five hundred (500) feet of the proposed
centerline of the pipe.
• The owner or operator of the proposed pipeline shall post a bond to guarantee that
the pipeline will be built in accordance with this ordinance and other applicable
law and to guarantee that all surface land will be returned to its previous

Pipeline Operation Requirements• Every pipeline owner or operator shall provide an annual safety report to the City.
• All pipeline owners or operators shall have procedures to minimize hazards
resulting from an emergency.

Public Education Requirements
All owners or operators must have a public education program that includes the
location of each pipeline, material transported in the pipeline, how and where to
report an emergency, special requirements for excavation near a pipeline, and
how to take cover in an emergency.

Violation Penalty Requirements
The City shall impose fines for violations and shall also be entitled to injunctive
relief to prevent violation or compel compliance with this ordinance.

Travel to other worlds ... UTA Planetarium

Immersive full-dome 3-D Digital planetarium show narrated by Ewan McGregor (Obi wan Kepobi from Star Wars) - Astronaut takes you exporing the worlds of inner and outer space. The movie is projected all around you. You recline in specially constructed chairs which enables you to comfortably view the immersive full-dome planetarium show. Astronaut! (produced from the National Space Centre in England) goes beyond the stereotypical space movie. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of the astronaut. Float around the international Space Station moving thorugh the microscopic regions of the human body! Discover the beauty and perils as "Chad", the test astronaut experiences everything thrown at him.

Summer Schedule (June 2-August 26):


shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Wed. through Saturdays at 11 a.m.
and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Cosmic CSI

shows at the UTA Planetarium 3-D Digital Dome.

Wed. through Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Rock Hall of Fame 1 (The Original)

shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

Read more (Warning their flat dull website doesn't give much of a glimmer of the multi-dimensional experience you'll have once you enter the dome of the UTA Planetarium!)

Admission: Adults: $5.00

Seniors, Students, Children: $4.00

UTA Faculty, Staff & Alumni (with ID): $3.00

UTA Studens (with ID): $2.00

Groups of 10 or more with reservation: $3.00

Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu