ExxonMobil

Exxon Fracking Fluid Spill In Pennsylvania Dumps Estimated 13,000 Gallons Into Nearby Waterways

  • Posted on: 28 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Crossposted from DeSmogBlog.com, authored by Brendan DeMelle.

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after a 13,000 gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid spill at XTO Energy's natural gas drilling site in Penn Township, Lycoming County, PA.

The spill was first discovered last week by a DEP inspector who found a valve had been left open on a 21,000-gallon fracking fluid tank, discharging fluid off the well pad into local waterways, threatening a nearby cattle herd that had to be fenced off from the contaminated pasture.  Exxon/XTO has not provided an explanation on why the valve was left open.

“This spill was initially estimated at more than 13,000 gallons by the company and has polluted an unnamed tributary to Sugar Run and a spring,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Nels Taber. “There are also two private drinking water wells in the vicinity that will be sampled for possible impacts.”

DEP's sampling confirmed elevated levels of conductivity and salinity in the spring and unnamed tributary, clear indications that the fracking fluid was present in the waterways.

Exxon paid $30 billion in its June 2010 merger with Texas-based XTO Energy, making Exxon/XTO the largest natural gas producer in the United States, with extensive holdings of "unconventional resources" throughout the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere.


Concerns over natural gas fracking
are widespread through the Marcellus Shale region and in several Western U.S. states where a boom in natural gas development is underway thanks to the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique.  Residents living near fracking operations are on the front lines as their drinking water supplies and health are threatened by the fracking process, which involves injecting a mixture of sand, water and undisclosed toxic chemicals into the shale rock to free up the trapped gas.

Pennsylvania is no stranger to fracking disasters, notably the high-profile contamination in the town of Dimock, where resident Norma Fiorentino's water well famously blew up on New Year's Day 2009, and at least 15 families have had their drinking water ruined by fracking, leading to illness, livestock deaths and other maladies.

Last week, the Pittsburgh City Council banned natural gas fracking within city limits due to concerns over the threat of water contamination and public health risks.

But Pennsylvania is hardly alone in the fracking fight. Fracking operations have contaminated water supplies across America from New York, to Wyoming, to New Mexico, to Ohio, to Virginia, to Arkansas, to Colorado and beyond.

The Environmental Protection Agency currently has no power to regulate hydraulic fracturing thanks to the Halliburton Loophole inserted into the 2005 enegy bill at the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the former head of Halliburton.

Mounting evidence of the fracking threat nationwide has yet to convince lawmakers to close the loophole and hold the natural gas industry accountable for its fracking messes. As the New York Times asked in a November 2009 editorial, "if hydraulic fracturing is as safe as the industry says it is, why should it fear regulation?"

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Exxon Agrees to Pay $25 million for Superfund Cleanup in Newtown Creek

  • Posted on: 18 November 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo credit: Oils Well in Brooklyn

A three year New York lawsuit against ExxonMobil over the cleanup of Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted section of Brooklyn's Greenpoint area, has resulted in the oil giant's agreement to contribute $25 million to boost remediation of the area, as well as $5 million in penalties and costs.

Newton Creek was finally added to the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund National Priorities List at the end of September, well over a century after heavy industrial activity contaminated the area with millions of gallons of oil, poisonous PCBs, pesticides, and other highly dangerous substances.  Also responsible for major oil spills in the area are supermajors BP and Chevron.

The addition of many Congressional polluter-allies through the midterm elections doesn't bode well for the Superfund program, which went bankrupt in 2003 following a major loss of tax income in 1995.  While the EPA has asked Congress for a renewal of taxation on petrochemical companies in order to fund the cleanup of their ongoing messes, as opposed to using public funds to take responsibility for the pollution.  Industry opposition plays the same scare-cards we see over and over: forced outsourcing, dead jobs, and a loss of international marketplace competiton.

As ExxonMobil barely scrapes by with a 2009 profit of 19.2 billion and Chevron's meager $10.4 billion net revenue, it's understandable why the industry would be concerned.  Exxon's recent $30 million commitment sucks up a staggering 0.002% of their 2009 profit.

This story was picked up from the New York Times.

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Servants of Oil Increase Funding and Misinformation in Prop 23 Battle

  • Posted on: 25 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

Following voter opposition to Proposition 23 and the recent surge in funding to counter the oily measure, Texas refiners Valero and Tesoro (who "are not oil companies," by the way)  have respectively added $1 million and $500,000 to the fight.  The dirty energy proposition would victimize clean energy jobs and development, not to mention legislative innovation and an already struggling climate.

There has been a lot of confusion about how Prop 23 relates to jobs, as the oil industry has cultivated fears of job loss through some questionable studies.  The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, which is funded by the likes of Art Pope and the Koch brothers, has crafted a report designed to create hysteria among economically-wary Californians (read: most Californians), claiming formidable implications on jobs and state economic output. 

The funny thing, and by funny I mean dishonest, is that this report conveniently avoids looking at the economic benefits of the climate law that Prop 23 would cripple.  It also fails to mention that by the end of the decade, Proposition 23 will make California electricity cost 33% more.  And it also doesn't note that the report's author has worked for the Cato Institute, which Charles Koch founded and David Koch remains a Board member, and the Manhattan Institute, yet another think tank funded by the likes of Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.  For a deeper look, check out what Rebecca Lefton has to say about the Pacific Research Institute's selective look at California's climate law.

Beyond publishing their own flawed report, the Pacific Research Institute is also promoting another attack-study to help sell Prop 23.  This publication has been heavily scrutinized--to the point of invalidity--by California's Legislative Analyst's Office, the Business Alliance for a Green Economy, and two professors from Standford University and UCLA.

This is not the first time that the Pacific Research Institute has used flawed studies to attack clean energy progress, as they continue to do with the heavily-touted, heavily-debunked "Spanish study."  Pretty typical for one of the Kochtopus' many tentacles.

For an excellent map of the oil money fueling Proposition 23, refer to Dirty Energy Money.

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Heritage Foundation Cuts and Pastes to Upend Scientific Report

  • Posted on: 19 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

ExxonMobil has given $630,000 to the Heritage Foundation since 1998, and the Kochtopus has given over $3 million.

[UPDATED BELOW]

This blog was originally posted on October 4, 2010

Last Friday, the Heritage Foundation posted a scandalously selective blurb from a recent Royal Society report on global warming.  Editing out ten pages of the report, Heritage cut and pasted to promote the notion that a large amount of uncertainty still exists about the occurance of climate change. 

For the record: credible scientists actively studying climate patterns have no doubt that global warming is happening and that fossil fuel emissions are public enemy number one.  Had Heritage chosen to leave some of those ten pages they so gracefully skipped, perhaps they would have reached the same conclusion.  Even the summary of the report makes this clear, stating:

"[The report] shows that there is strong evidence that over the last half century, the earth’s warming has been caused largely by human activity."

The Heritage Foundation is no stranger to junk science--they've been paid over $600,000 from Exxon since 1998 (the year global warming "stopped", for those that believe in cherry-picked science, *cough cough* Senator Inhofe), and over $3 million from the Koch brothers since 1997. 

Heritage is also deeply entrenched in the climate denial machine, associated with purchased scientists who have made a living denying climate change, the links between cigarettes and cancer, and other less-than-admirable and less-than-scientific efforts to uphold their industrial clients.  These people may have Ph.D.'s (although usually not even climate-related), but don't actively study climate data in the field or publish material after a peer-review from credible scientists.  Their selective reporting wouldn't hold up through such an integrity check.

Doubt is their product, and business has been good, but you can only keep people from smelling scientific sewage for so long.

For more on Heritage's selective science, check out NRDC's Switchboard

Check these links for more on ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

UPDATE: It turns out the author of the deceptive Heritage blog, Nicholas Loris, is a former "associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation."  Another small bit of evidence contributing to the overwhelming pervasiveness of the Kochtopus...

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Heritage Foundation Finally Acknowledges Climate Change as Global Priority

  • Posted on: 5 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

In a freakish yet more-than-welcome "dramatic reversal" (their own words!), the Heritage Foundation's Nicolas Loris blogged last Thursday about the importance of climate change, as outlined in a recent Royal Society summary on the topic.  Read for yourself (note, I truncated some things here and did some selective editing there, but please don't think I'm taking things out of context):

"Great Britain’s most prominent scientific body [the Royal Society] still asserts that greenhouse gas gases [sic] resulting from human activity contributes to warming.  [T]he group urged the U.K. government to take urgent action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and to do so “as fast as possible.”  The U.S. took that message to heart. The current Administration is attempting to tip the balance in favor of renewable energy by advocating a cap-and-trade system and renewable electricity mandates and has allocated additional billions of dollars in government spending for government-picked clean energy sources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving down a long regulatory path to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act because CO2 and five other greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten public health and the environment."

For Heritage to report the position of the Royal Society and the efforts of the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was refreshingly encouraging.  In explaining their U-turn, Heritage states, "We should welcome an objective scientific debate on global warming," and admitted that the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have received from Exxon as well as the $3.3 million obtained from the billionaire Koch brothers had affected their previous positions.

In gesture of their new position, the Heritage Foundation is today hosting fellow fence-jumper Bjorn Lomborg at a movie screening based on one of his books.  Lomborg, whose book and associated movie "Cool It" made clear his belief that money was not well spent on addressing global warming, now calls for investments in measures that could contribute to the mitigation of the crisis.

Why Heritage is showing a movie that seems to counter Lomborg's new position is a bit confusing.  Given all the recent changes of heart, hopefully they intend to deliver a public apology for their previous obstructionism to those already suffering from the symptoms of climate change.

Either way, it's great to see the Heritage Foundation doing the right thing, and to realize how silly it can be to take things out of context.

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