Attorney General Herbert Slatery is suing Chevron and its subsidiaries for a “prolonged and costly scheme” to take more than $18 million from a state fund used to cleanup spills of oil and gas, reports The Tennessean.
The fund reimburses tank owners for expenses during spill cleanups, but is intended as a last-resort fund for owners who cannot afford the costs. Owners with private insurance must first seek cleanup costs from their insurance companies.
The lawsuit alleges the companies used taxpayer funds to pay for leaks and spills at more than 100 Tennessee gas stations — despite having private insurance that paid for the cleanup costs.
The lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court also accuses Chevron and its subsidiaries of filing falsified paperwork for millions of dollars to pay for leaks at storage tanks that occurred before the cleanup fund was operating.
In its applications for cleanup costs, the company “misled” the state and continued to “misrepresent the insurance status of the facilities,” the lawsuit said.
The state is seeking more than $18 million in funds to be returned as well as penalties ranging between $2,500 and $10,000 for each false claim filed.
The fund has paid out more than $370 million to hundreds of tank owners across the state since it was created in 1988…. (T)he company is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming in some instances Chevron and its subsidiaries had sought state funds to make up the difference in their cleanup costs from the “pennies-on-the-dollar” claim payouts from their insurers.
Despite concerns from residents and environment groups, the Tennessee Oil and Gas Board approved new rules Friday for the controversial natural-gas extraction practice known as fracking, according to The Tennessean.
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the regulations provide oversight and will help protect residents if large-scale fracking takes place in Tennessee.
Fracking, or fracturing, is a method in which water and chemicals are injected into shale to break apart rock and release natural gas. The practice can already legally take place in Tennessee.
“Anything we pass today is more stringent than what we have now,” said Jonathon Burr, a program manager with TDEC’s Division of Water Resources.
Still, residents and environmental groups said the state should take more time to put in place rules that protect the public and Tennessee’s water resources. In some states, regulators have found cases in which fracking has led to water pollution.
“Our water table is the most precious natural resource that we as Tennesseans own,” said Richard Diamond, a retired attorney and member of the Swan Conservation Trust in Lewis County. “We can live without natural gas but we cannot live without water.”
Friday’s meeting of the Oil and Gas Board lasted all day and was its last before it merges with the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board on Monday. The six-member board approved the new rules 5-0, with member Peter Claussen leaving before the vote was taken.
The new rules contain pages of technical requirements on how gas wells should be drilled and monitored. The rules also include a public notice requirement and a provision requiring that gas operators disclose in post-drilling reports what chemicals were used in fracking, unless they are considered a trade secret.
Tennessee’s oil and gas industry successfully opposed passage of a law this spring to regulate fracking, the controversial practice of cracking the rock deep underground to more quickly release natural gas, reports Anne Paine.
And as the state is poised to update its mining regulations, the industry has firm seating on the board that will make the final decision on any rules, a fact that environmentalists say is part of a too-cozy relationship between regulators and those regulated.
Fracking is growing nationwide in areas with gas-rich shale, and it’s been blamed in some areas for tainting well water. Questions also have arisen about possible links to earthquake tremors.
But so far, fracking is not on the table as the state Department of Environment and Conservation proposes changes in mining rules.
“One of our concerns is that TDEC reached out to the oil and gas community and basically asked them to help write the regulations and never asked us,” said Renee Hoyos, with the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “They’re silent on fracking.”