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.
PBS Preimiere: August 25, 2014
Online: Aug. 26, 2014 – Sept. 24, 2014
Over five years, director Rachel Boynton and her cinematographer film the quest for oil in Ghana by Dallas-based Kosmos. The company develops the country’s first commercial oil field, yet its success is quickly compromised by political intrigue and accusations of corruption. As Ghanaians wait to reap the benefits of oil, the filmmakers discover violent resistance down the coast in the Niger Delta, where poor Nigerians have yet to prosper from decades-old oil fields. Big Men, executive produced by Brad Pitt, provides an unprecedented inside look at the global deal making and dark underside of energy development — a contest for money and power that is reshaping the world. Official Selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
Read the full film description.
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.
Energy Center executive director Melinda Taylor and research fellow Jeremy Brown published an Op-Ed in the July 7th edition of the San Antonio Express News on the recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Texas did not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through the operation of its surface water program. The opinion also reverses a Corpus Christi court decision holding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) caused the deaths of 23 endangered whooping cranes during the 2008-2009 drought. Taylor and Brown warn that “[e]ven though it won the case, the TCEQ will need to develop strategies that balance the needs of humans and the natural environment if it is to avoid future conflicts with the ESA and the rare species the law is intended to protect.”
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.”
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business will be established jointly by the School of Law and the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
The naming of the center was approved on May 15, 2014 by the University of Texas System Board of Regents.
The mission of the interdisciplinary center will be to provide the finest educational opportunities in the U.S. to students pursuing careers in energy. The center will also provide critical analyses of legal, business and policy questions related to energy and the energy industry, both domestic and international, including an emphasis on Latin America.
The center will combine three existing centers at the university: the School of Law’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitrations, and Environmental Law; the McCombs School’s Energy Management and Innovation Center; and the School of Law’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Latin American Law, which the Board of Regents honorifically named for Hutchison last July. The Center for Latin American Law was formally established in 2013 but is not yet active. The new Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business will unite the expertise and resources of these three centers.
“We are proud this new center will be named for such a wonderful public servant who has a long and cherished relationship with our university,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “This exciting new venture will help us continue to establish The University of Texas at Austin as the country’s premier energy university.”
“We are proud to name the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business in honor of an outstanding public servant and distinguished University of Texas at Austin alumna who has supported energy studies from a broad perspective for many years, including the legal, managerial, and policy issues relevant to the energy industry,” added Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System. “This new center will combine the expertise and resources associated with three existing centers in law and business at UT Austin and provide a world-class, innovative educational experience to students and researchers, and balanced and incisive analyses to policy makers.”
Hutchison is a distinguished alumna (B.A. 1962, J.D. 1967) and staunch advocate for centers of excellence in higher education. She retired from politics in 2012 after serving for nearly 20 years as a U.S. senator from Texas. She joined Bracewell & Giuliani in 2013 and represents clients in banking, energy, transportation, telecommunications and public policy. She is active in supporting both the School of Law and the LBJ School of Public Affairs and has ardently promoted the importance of research and diversity within higher education.
Read brochure about the KBH Center at UT Austin.
For more information, please visit www.kbhenergycenter.utexas.edu.