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Read about Rancho Los Malulos on this blog

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Elizabeth has now been subpoenaed by Chevron
for publicizing their poor performance.


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BusinessWeek reports:

Exxon’s Oozing Texas Oil Pits Haunt Residents as XTO Deal Nears

April 16, 2010, 12:16 AM EDT

By Joe Carroll

April 16 (Bloomberg) — Bo Vavrusa was heaping dirt into the path of a wildfire on a Texas ranch in October 2007 when his tractor rammed an Exxon Mobil Corp. natural-gas pipe hidden in a thicket. Flames engulfed the tractor, burning his face, arms and hands as he fled.

“I thought I was fixing to die,” said Vavrusa, 28, who was earning $10 an hour to groom the ranch for quail and dove hunters.

Exxon, the biggest U.S. oil producer, has neglected this stretch of Texas since its oil fields began drying up in the 1970s, said Jerry Patterson, the state’s General Land Office Commissioner. Now Patterson and other state officials are urging Texas lawmakers to follow the examples of California and Pennsylvania in cracking down on oilfield practices that have left leaking pipelines, wells and storage tanks.

Oozing chemical pits and Vavrusa’s scarred skin are emblematic of a legacy Exxon has sought to keep buried in court, even as it gears up for a return to active exploration within miles of the ranch through its pending $29.3 billion acquisition of Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc.

. . . . .

“I think the whole future of oil and gas in this country depends on the companies having to pick up the last mess,” said Elizabeth Burns, 43, who lives with her family on the Encinitos Ranch where Vavrusa was injured. “Places like Pennsylvania and New York need strong laws or this is what they’re going to get.”

Depression-Era Leases

Relatives of Burns and her husband, Stephen, own the ranch and much of the Kelsey oilfield beneath it. They’ve filed a lawsuit against Exxon and Chevron Corp., which pumps oil and gas on a smaller section of the spread. The suit accuses the companies of damaging tens of thousands of acres and failing to abide by 1930s-era leases they say require operators to keep equipment clear of vegetation.

. . . . .

“We are a responsible operator and refute any accusations that suggest otherwise,” said David Eglinton, an Exxon spokesman. “We currently have crews working to remove unneeded facilities and, where appropriate, remediate affected areas to applicable regulatory standards.”

Chevron, the largest U.S. oil company after Exxon, “denies these unsubstantiated allegations and intends to defend itself in the litigation,” said Mickey Driver, a spokesman for the San Ramon, California-based company.

- read complete story at BusinessWeek.com

Here are some pictures of “responsible operating” – Exxon-style:

Overgrown valves on pipelines

Excavation of area with leaking condensates

America's 'energy independence,' leaking away. That's what happens when an oil & gas company decides it has better things to do than maintain its field infrastructure

This isn't from properly maintained infrastructure

Leaking, toxic condensates, up close

It’s perplexing that a company that “currently has crews working to remove unneeded facilities and where appropriate, remediate affected areas to applicable regulatory standards” can’t find those rusty, overgrown pipes and valves, even though Elizabeth Burns manages to find them all the time.   And where is it ever not “appropriate” to “remediate affected areas”?  And just who decides which regulatory standards are “applicable“?

Elizabeth Burns has been trying for some time to get the oil & gas companies who leased her family’s ranch to clean up their act.  After all, she lives there with her kids, and there are many other people on the ranch whose wellbeing is at risk, like Bo Vavrusa, mentioned at the beginning of the Business Week article.  And you might think it would be in the companies’ best interests to run a tidy operation.  Their response has been to harass, silence, and sue her.

You can follow Elizabeth’s posts from this blog – see RSS feeds to the right, for Rancho Los Malulos and The Polyline Lawsuit.


When gas drillers say they want to be good neighbors, why would you believe them?


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How long can you live with a problem while you struggle to enforce the terms of your “good” lease? Yup, that one, the one with all the protections – protections that are only as good as your ability (read money) to enforce them.

The company gets to deduct its “production” (imagine what that term could encompass) and transportation costs from your royalty payments. You don’t get to recoup your legal costs on top of your royalties.

What will you have left when the fight’s over?

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ExxonMobil, thanks for giving us another example of just how nasty the O&G industry is.  We knew you had it in ya.

Judge, thanks for giving us yet more proof of how the system works, as if we needed any.

Big, big (sincere) thanks to these bloggers for their teamwork in getting her story out:










In her own words:


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