Professor Tom McGarity was quoted recently in an Inside Climate News article about the $2.9 million fracking verdict against Aruba Petroleum, which has survived another challenge. According to the story, “Judge Mark Greenberg has denied a motion by Aruba Petroleum for a new trial, letting stand the $2.9 million jury award to Lisa and Bob Parr who sued the company after gas and oil wells surrounded their once rural ranch south of Dallas.” Aruba says it will appeal. Professor McGarity isn’t surprised Aruba lost it’s motion for a new trial, observing that “‘The defendants presented a collection of things that they claimed were prejudicial and the judge said ‘No. I think there has been a fair trial here.’” McGarity also believes “the case will ultimately end up in the Texas Supreme Court … because [it] could be used to help determine future claims involving air emissions from the oil and gas industry.” “I think this case is viewed as a test case for lots of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing,” McGarity added.
News Types: Media Coverage
In an article about Texas’ two-year statue of limitations that says people have just two years from the time they notice a problem until the file a lawsuit, InsideClimate News quoted Professor Tom McGarity on how “If a plaintiff waits too long they will be barred by the statutes from brining a cause of action,” adding that “So to that degree it works in the defendants’ favor.”
An August 27th Bloomberg News article quotes Professor David Spence on how the oil industry in Colorado is giving fracking a makeover and cutting back on rumbling trucks and tamping down on pollution. According to the article, “Oil companies in Colorado are responding to a rising tide of resentment as local communities and environmental activists vie to impose measures to ban fracking and restrict drilling. A series of ballot initiatives and other grass roots opposition around the country is seen as threatening the booming shale industry, even is oil-friendly Texas, where the U.S. energy renaissance began.” “If those initiatives ‘continue to proliferate then companies lose access to those resources,’” said Spence.
ClimateProgress quoted Professor Tom McGarity in an August 18th story on a Texas family that claimed they were severely sickened by air pollution from two companies’ hydraulic fracturing operations near their home that has had their lawsuit against the companies thrown out last week. The judge’s ruling agreed with Marathon Oil Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production that Mike and Myra Cerny did not have enough scientific or medical proof that emissions alleged to be contaminating their air were causing their health problems. According to the story, “The ruling comes just a few months after a different family won $2.95 million in a separate Texas court on a lawsuit with similar claims.” “How can you have cases with similar facts and such different outcomes,” observed McGarity, adding that “There is a certain amount of judgment and that implies there is a certain amount of subjectivity.”
Professor Tom McGarity was quoted recently in an InsideClimate News article about a Texas judge who has dismissed a million-dollar lawsuit by a Karnes County, Texas, family that says their lives have been ruined by noxious emissions from oil and gas facilities near their home. According to the article, the dismissal is in contrast to a case in which a jury awarded $2.9 million to a family who also claimed to be sickened by fracking emissions. “That two similar cases could have such different outcomes highlights vagaries of both the justice and regulatory system in Texas where the oil and gas industry is widely praised and supported,” the article stated. Professor Tom McGarity observed that “Judges try to do the right thing but they come at the task with certain preconceptions, adding that those preconceptions vary with the sentiments of the jurisdictions they represent.”
Professor David Spence was quoted recently in a Christian Science Monitor article about conflict between states and local governments over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” the proliferation of litigation pitting state regulators and landowners against local communities trying to restrict or ban fracking, and the resolution of those conflicts, is the subject of a forthcoming article in the Texas Law Review by Prof. Spence.
In an article about a case before the Texas Supreme Court on a Houston air quality ordinance, Law 360 quoted Energy Center research fellow Jeremy Brown on the incentives that local governments have to enact more stringent regulations than exist at the state level.
A June 27 Houston Chronicle article quotes Energy Center executive director Melinda Taylor on a challenge to the lesser prairie chicken’s threatened status by the oil and gas industry. According to the story, “At issue is whether the government can rely on voluntary agreements with landowners to preserve habitat for the imperiled species, or whether the only guarantee is to declare a species endangered and thereby severely limit its habitat for commercial use.” Lawsuits challenging the decision have been filed by a number of industry groups, municipalities, and the state of Kansas. “Protecting the chicken is particularly complex because its range is so vast, stretching over five states [Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas]. How federal courts decide the case could influence how other troubled species with multi-state territories are protected,” Taylor said. “It’s not easy because there is no other model,” Taylor said of the efforts to reverse the species’ decline. “It’s the model because it hasn’t been done before at this scale.”
The Miami Herald quoted professor Tom McGarity in a June 20 story on a pivotal case involving toxic emissions from gas and oil drilling where the presiding judge accepted a jury verdict that awarded $2.9 million to a family who said the emissions have made them sick. According to the story, “Judge Mark Greenberg issued a one-page ruling late Thursday denying a motion by Aruba Petroleum to reject the jury’s verdict. Among Aruba’s arguments rejected by Greenberg were that Bob and Lisa Parr did not prove the emissions that made them sick came from Aruba wells.” “Losing the case was not good for the industry,” said McGarity. “My guess is the industry will coalesce around this case. The industry will want to stop the dam from breaking wide open. … This is where they will take a stand.”
In a May 2 article, Law360 quoted professor Jeff Civins on recent Texas appellate rulings that give broad discretion to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in determining whether opponents of proposed air- and water-quality permits are entitled to a formal administrative hearing, potentially allowing applicants to avoid lengthy court battles and years of delay. “[T]he contested case hearing process, which Texas adopted in the mid-1970s, gives people opposed to a project ‘a significant gun to hold to the head of a project developer,’” says Civins. “[T]he recent rulings are ‘more process than substance … [f]rom an applicant’s perspective, you’ve got to be a little discouraged.’”