Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Open Letter to Rex Tillerson from Lou Allstadt

Lou Allstadt (photo: Peter Mantius)

"This letter has been emailed to Rex Tillerson at ExxonMobil as well as to numerous newspapers. Please feel free to forward it. Thanks -- Lou"

Open Letter to Rex Tillerson,
Chairman, ExxonMobil

From Lou Allstadt

Dear Rex,

We have never met, but I worked for your company for six months immediately after the ExxonMobil merger, the implementation of which I coordinated from the Mobil side. That was after thirty years with Mobil Oil Corporation, where just prior to the merger I had been an Executive Vice President and Operating Officer for Exploration and Producing in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. I now live in upstate New York.

For the past five years, I have been actively trying to keep your company and the rest of the industry from fracking here. I understand from several press articles that you have fracking issues of your own, with a fracking water tower and truck traffic possibly detracting from your view and the value of your home.

In response to the prospect of fracking ruining our communities, many New York towns have passed zoning laws that prohibit heavy industry, including any activities associated with drilling for oil and gas. Those laws, along with very little prospect for economic gas production in New York, mean that we probably will not have to look at fracking water towers, let alone live next to fracking well pads. I say probably, because your industry is still fighting those zoning laws in the courts.

Ironically, your reasoning at the Bartonville, Texas town council meetings is virtually identical to the reasoning that I and many other citizens used to convince our local town councils to pass laws that prohibit the very problem you have encountered, plus all of the other infrastructure and waste disposal issues associated with fracking.

No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated. You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can’t afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations.

My efforts to prevent fracking started over water — not the prospect of having to see a water tank from my home, but rather regulations that would allow gas wells near our sources of drinking water, in addition to well pads next to our homes, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. These issues are legitimate, but they are localized. I am now much more concerned with the greenhouse gas impacts of fossil fuels in general, and particularly the huge impact of methane emissions from natural gas production and transportation. These are global problems that local zoning cannot protect against. Only a major shift toward renewable energy sources can begin to mitigate their catastrophic climate impacts.

Before closing, I should explain why I have referred to ExxonMobil as “your company.”

For several years after retiring I thought of ExxonMobil as “my company.” I thought that the company’s rigor and discipline in investing in sound projects was as good as it gets, and ExxonMobil was my largest single investment. I no longer own any shares of ExxonMobil or any other fossil fuel company. I would prefer to be an early investor in alternative energy for the 21st century rather than hanging on to dwindling prospects for investments in 19th and 20th century fossil fuels.

It is time that ExxonMobil started shifting away from oil and gas, and toward alternatives — both for environmental reasons and to protect the long-term viability of the company. Many large energy producers and consumers, including ExxonMobil, are building a carbon fee into their long-term planning assumptions. Actively supporting the phase-in of a carbon fee would be one way to move the company into the 21st century. Recognizing that methane emissions disqualify natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is another.

Good luck with that fracking water tank. I hope you don’t have to move, and also that you will help a lot of other people stay in the homes they love.


Lou Allstadt

Links to some reports on Mr. Tillerson’s fight against a fracking water tower near his home in Texas:

Monday, February 24, 2014

PSB: Appellate decision a win and loss for plaintiffs in IBM plume case

Appellate decision a win and loss for plaintiffs in IBM plume case

9:52 PM, Feb 23, 2014
 BGM 0720 Huron
A 2011 file photo of the former IBM Corp. campus in Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating. / FILE PHOTO

Written by Steve Reilly

Following a split decision by a mid-level appeals court late last week, attorneys are expected to ask New York’s highest court to hear arguments in the massive toxic tort lawsuit against IBM Corp.

In an 11-page order issued Thursday, the state Supreme Court Appellate Division partially overturned two of five orders Broome County Supreme Court Judge Ferris D. Lebous issued in November 2012.

Lebous’ orders dealt with whether allegations of negligence, nuisance, trespass, medical monitoring damages and contamination from chemicals other than TCE (trichloroethylene) should be considered at the eventual trial.

Those orders were followed by appeals from both sides, leading to the mid-level court’s decision Thursday to overturn two of the five: one in IBM’s favor; and another in the favor of the plaintiffs.

The eventual trial is expected to be postponed by yet even more appeals.

Stephen Schwarz, a Rochester-based attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he plans to file legal paperwork within 30 days asking the state Court of Appeals — New York’s highest court — to hear the case.

“I think that we were partially gratified by the results,” he said of the appeals court’s decision. “There are a few things that we think that the law should be clarified by the Court of Appeals, and I think that’s what we’ll make an attempt to do.”

IBM spokesman Todd Martin said the company was also gratified by Thursday’s order, which he said “serves to define and limit” the claims that will be decided at trial. He declined to say whether IBM would appeal.

Legal history

From 1935 to the mid-1980s, IBM used TCE to clean metal parts in degreasers at its industrial campus in the Village of Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating.

Contamination from soil vapor intrusion was detected by the late 1990s, and by 2002 IBM began testing the air at the request of state health and environmental agencies. Basement ventilation systems were eventually installed in more than 400 homes.

In a series of toxic tort lawsuits filed beginning in January 2008, about 1,000 plaintiffs have argued the contamination has caused illnesses and deaths, damaged property values and hurt business.

In April 2012, the claims of two Endicott families, including seven people, were broken from the class action to be heard first in an effort to simplify the litigation.

IBM filed motions in May 2012 seeking, among other things, to limit the types of claims the plaintiffs could make against the company in the eventual trial.

Lebous’ November 2012 orders, formalized in a January 2013 judgment, ruled allegations of negligence and trespass against IBM could be considered by the jury.

But allegations of nuisance, claims IBM should pay medical monitoring costs, and claims regarding chemicals other than TCE should not come before the jury, Lebous ruled.

Each of Lebous’ orders was appealed.

Appellate decision

The Appellate Division’s decision overturns two pieces of Lebous’ order.

• The trespass claims against IBM should not be part of the trial, the Appellate Division ruled, because vapor intrusion and air emissions are “intangible intrusions” like noise, odor or light and under the law are considered instances of nuisance rather than trespass.

• The Appellate Division ruled that medical monitoring claims — related to costs of continuing medical surveillance following an injury — were valid only in cases involving a property owner. Only two of the seven plaintiffs involved in this stage of the litigation are property owners.

Schwarz, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will ask the state’s highest court to reconsider the medical monitoring decision.

“Some of the most vulnerable people are children that were exposed,” he said. “And because they weren’t property owners and hadn’t suffered a property damage injury ... under this ruling they aren’t entitled to medical surveillance while people that lived in the same household are.”

Martin, the IBM spokesman, said the company believes the Appellate Division erred in allowing any medical monitoring claims at all.

“In permitting the medical monitoring claims of two plaintiffs to proceed, the appellate court relied on factual arguments that the plaintiffs never asserted and cannot prove at trial,” he said.

The application for the case to be heard by the Court of Appeals, Schwarz said, will also ask the court to reconsider the nuisance claim that was upheld by the Appellate Division.

A legal ruling dating back to the late 1800s prevents non-property owners from making nuisance claims, he said, and is now ripe for appeal. Most states have since changed course, but New York has not.

“Our hope is that it will get to the Court of Appeals now and they will also go with what the rest of the states have done and allow spouses and children to also recover from those types of injuries,” he said.

May you, and all beings
be happy and free from suffering :)
-- ancient Buddhist Prayer (Metta)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Vera Scroggins vs. Vic Furman LIVE DEBATE Thursday! WNBF 1290am 10:15AM

This looks like a good one, folks.

Thursday Feb 6th, at 10:15AM EST (1515 UTC)
1290 on your AM radio dial

Listen Live online:

Call in with your questions: 607-772-1290
or email

Show Archive: