About Air and Water

Thursday, May 27, 2010

State regulators fail to disclose benzene in Fort Worth air

By CHRIS HAWES - WFAA - May 26, 2010
FORT WORTH — State environmental officials said they never found evidence of elevated levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene during a December air study in Fort Worth.

But News 8 has proof that they did, and the mayor of a Denton County town is now calling for a federal probe of state pollution regulators.

Last January, John Sadlier, deputy director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, appeared before the Fort Worth City Council with what sounded like good news: Eight air samples analyzed in Fort Worth found no traces of benzene, the toxin that — over time — can lead to leukemia.

"Benzene is non-detect on all the slides," Sadlier said during the January presentation.

But what he didn't tell Council members was that the analysis equipment that TCEQ used in the field wasn't sensitive enough to detect lower levels of benzene — the levels that TCEQ's own scientists say can lead to cancer if sustained over a period of years.

That revelation was included in an internal TCEQ report obtained by News 8 on Wednesday.

"Every citizen should be outraged, in particular the citizens of Fort Worth, because we've been duped and lied to," said Esther McElfish of the North Central Texas Communities Alliance.

A few days after Sadlier spoke to the Fort Worth Council, TCEQ's lab tested the samples with equipment that could detect the levels they were looking for. Scientists found four of the eight samples taken indicated benzene above what the commission considers safe when considering long-term health effects.

But Sadlier and TCEQ decided not to tell the public. Why?

"I don't even know how to respond to that," Sadlier told News 8 in a telephone interview. "I don't think there's any need to. These values are so small."
Sadlier maintained that he didn't know the analysis equipment used in the field was incapable of detecting the lower levels when he talked to the city. He also said he told a Fort Worth staffer about the discrepancy last week.

Sadlier did not, however, inform State Sen. Wendy Davis, who has been active in natural gas issues.

"This agency that has been charged with ensuring the health of our community has broken our trust, in terms of assuring us that they're going to look out for our safety versus looking out for their own reputations and their own concerns about the fact that they failed to do the job that they should have been doing," Davis said

Sadlier said follow-up testing at the sites in question detected very low levels of benzene when they returned.

The City of Fort Worth now plans to conduct its own testing, and Calvin Tillman, mayor of the tiny Denton County community of DISH, is calling for an investigation of TCEQ by the Department o
Read more and see video on WFAA.Com

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gas pipeline lawsuit judgement affirmed

By Bill Hankins - The Paris News - May 1, 2010

A $1.24 million judgement for 12 Lamar County residents against Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America has been affirmed by the 6th Court of Appeals in Texarkana.

William Wayne Justiss and 11 other property owners brought the suit more than 12 years ago, complaining about the noise and odor the pipeline’s compression station near Howland generated.

The suit was filed after the State of Texas cited NGPC for exceeding permitted emission levels.

Progress on the suit laggedfor approximately 10 years before a Lamar County jury ruled in favor of the landowners and awarded them the $1.24 million in damages for the loss of value of their properties.

The trial court also awarded the plaintiffs $645,229 in prejudgment interest the jury said accrued while the suit was pending.

On appeal, NGPC argued the trial court erred because the nuisance claim was barred by the statute of limitations, the facts of the case are legally insufficient, the facts concerning the jury awards are legally and constitutionally insufficient and prejudgement interest was improperly awarded.

The appeals court handed down its opinion Friday, finding in favor of the plaintiffs on all counts and affirming the trial court’s judgment.

“We thought the jury’s judgment was the right thing, and we are glad the appeals court agreed with us,” said plaintiff attorney James Rodgers.

He said NGPC has one more possible appeal in the case, that being to the Texas Supreme Court.

“I do not know if the Texas Supreme Court will hear the case, or if NGPC will even ask the court to hear an appeal,” Rodgers said.

“I didn’t ever think it (the judgment) would happen,” Justiss said after hearing the appeals court decision Friday. “The natural gas company is still doing that thing down there.”

The Lamar County jury awarded the $1.24 million in damages to nine of the plaintiffs who had sued.

While the lawsuit was pending, some of the plaintiffs brought another suit against parent company Kinder Morgan, which resulted in another damage verdict for trespass during the laying of a pipeline across the property of Justiss and Tommy and Judy Alspaugh.

A jury in 2003 found the company had laid a pipeline improperly on the plaintiffs’ property.

Damages were awarded in that case also.

In the latest suit, NGPC had built a compressor pump station in Howland near the residences of the Justisses, the Alspaughs and plaintiff Joseph Justiss, Joe Don and Judy Mashburn, Joe Denton and Christine Mashburn, Barry and Judy Cope and the late Richard Rast.

Rodgers was assisted by Steve Walker and Judy Hodgkiss in the trial that started Jan. 12, 2009, in Judge Scott McDowell’s 62nd District Court.

According to Justiss, by 1998, the noise and odor became a major problem, but the nearby residents were told there was nothing they could do because the company was in compliance with state monitoring.

Then in 1998, the company was cited by the state for creating “nuisance conditions.”

“The company argued it corrected the situation, but our clients did not believe this and continued to suffer from the same problems,” Rodgers said. “This suit was filed because the company did not correct the problems.”

Natural Gas Pipeline was represented at trial by the law firm of Bracewell and Guiliani of Houston. Their lawyers in trial were Phillip Sharp and Julie Wells.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

British Petroleum Spills Oil on the Gulf Coast and Coats Texas Politicians With Greenbacks

Faith Chatham - May 5, 2010
Thanks to Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex for following the money. Governor's Perry's confidence in BP may be connected to the faithfulness of their contributions to his campaign war chest. Here's a link to a spreadsheet showing the political contributions by British Petroleum to Texas Politicans.

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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!)

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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