XTO-Exxon/Mobil and Minuteman

xto-exxon logoIn November 2010, approximately 57,000 gallons of hazardous frack wastewater flowed from a holding tank on a well site operated by XTO Energy.    Initally  the amount was estimated at more than 13,000 gallons flowed from a 21,000 gallon tank.  (In June of 2010 XTO Energy completed a merger with ExxonMobil.  )
Which is it?  57,000 gallons or 13,000 gallons?

From the press release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office:

According to the grand jury, during that visit a DEP inspector discovered that a rear discharge valve on a storage tank had been opened and a drain plug had been removed, causing gas well waste water to flow out of the storage tank onto the ground. There also was evidence of prior waste water discharges from other storage tanks at the Marquardt site.

The grand jury found that between Nov. 12, 2010 and Nov. 16, 2010 more than 93,000 gallons of waste water was transported to and stored at the Marquardt site, of which approximately 57,000 gallons was unaccounted for following the spill.

Kane said that the toxic waste water flowed into and polluted an unnamed tributary of Sugar Run. As a result of the spill, DEP required more than 3,000 tons of contaminated soil to be excavated and removed from the Marquardt site

XTO allegedly failed to place a spill containment system under any of the storage tanks at the Marquardt site; failed to lock or otherwise secure any of the storage tanks on site; and failed to utilize any security measures to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the Marquardt site.

According to the grand jury, XTO did not have a permit to discharge waste water at the Marquardt site and failed to report any waste water spills to DEP as required by law.

FRACK WASTEWATER IS SAFE?

We’ve heard countless times from the industry that frackwater is safe, poses no harm, it’s fine.  They even had Gov. Hickenlooper of Colorado drink a glass.

(Wonder if he’s drinking it now?  See: Fracking Flood Disaster in Colorado)

During natural gas extraction, these wells produce waste water containing toxic substances, such as chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum.   During the cleanup of the XTO spill, fences were erected to prevent the cattle next door from grazing on the pasture land.

If the industry talking point about fracking water being safe is true – why the fences?  Why bring in a hazmat team?

XTO/Exxon was subsequently fined $100,000.

Doing the math:

$100,000 / 57,000 gallons = $1.75 per gallon.   

This fine was a civil fine.   The charges brought by the PA Attorney General’s office are criminal.

XTO/Exxon and related trade/front groups are objecting to the charges.

 Industry leaders said the prosecution of a company for what they called an inadvertent spill creates a hostile business environment.

“The incident has been fully addressed at the state and federal levels, and this action creates an untenable business climate that will discourage investment in the commonwealth,” Kathryn Z. Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry also protested.

“This decision sends a chilling message to all businesses looking to locate in Pennsylvania that they could be held criminally liable in the event of an unintentional spill by a contractor that resulted in no injury to humans or wildlife and that had no lasting impacts on the environment,” said Gene Barr, its president.

Imagine that, charging criminals with crimes will discourage crimes from being committed in the future.  And this is bad, why?

MINUTEMAN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

In May of 2013, the Attorney General’s office along with the IRS raided Minuteman Environmental Services (MES) in Milton PA.

(SEE: MINUTEMAN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES RAID –  TIP OF THE DRILL BIT)

Part of MES business activity is hazmat cleanup via Minuteman Spill Response, Inc. 

Three guesses who was brought in to clean up the XTO/Exxon “leak” and the first two guess do not count.
Do we have a winner?  If you guessed MINUTEMAN SPILL RESPONSE, you are correct.

Hired by XTO, contractor Minuteman Response, has been there for several days vacuuming spilled fluids and excavating soil.

Did the hazmat materials end up in Sunbury?  READ: Feds Raid ex-Celotex Site Operator

 Excerpt:

One thing the Daily Item failed to mention was the link between this company and Moran Industries – Minuteman were busily engaged in 2011 in shipping fracking waste through the Moran-owned former Celotex site, and in the process aroused much controversy and caused many problems for local residents.

Excerpt:

Given the sheer scale of the raid and the number of agencies involved – federal, state and local – it is most unlikely that this was purely about dumping – the DEP could easily handle that by themselves and it would not be for the first time. In 2011, Minuteman was fined $7,000 by the DEP for dumping and storing waste without DEP approval at sites in Green Township, Clinton County, and White Deer Township, Union County.  DEP stated the facilities held waste from natural gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale.

Questions:

  • Is there more to this than just bringing criminal charges against XTO/Exxon?
  • Is there a connection between XTO/EXXON charges and the raid on Minuteman?
  • And what of Sunbury and fracking waste handling?

This is just of the drillbit, folks.

©2013 by Dory Hippauf

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