Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New fracking process in the extraction of natural gas worse than some people thought

Video on fracking for natural gas
This just came in from New York League friends who have recently become
aware of the new fracking process used to extract natural gas. Be sure to
view the newscast video. There is a brief glimpse of Dr. Colborn in the
video they are showing. A video of Dr. Colborn's discussion about
chemicals used in natural gas drilling will be part of the League's State
Convention April 25, 2:00 pm at the Fayetteville Public Library. League
members are encouraged to attend, but the public is also invited to attend
this program. The Arkansas League members have been discussing natural gas
drilling for two years, but many are just now realizing that the process is
different and has been exempted from most of the Federal health and safety
regulations, while states lack sufficient protections.

Video on fracking for natural gas
Joyce Hale

Friday, March 27, 2009

Game and Fish Commission sued over use of gas-leasing money

Game, fish agency says plaintiff lacks standing in lawsuit
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/255822/
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is arguing that a lawsuit filed by a Little Rock man who says money from natural gas leases held by the agency should go to the state's general fund should be dismissed because the plaintiff hasn't suffered any harm.

The commission said in a response to James Dockery's lawsuit that, among other things, Dockery has no claim to the mineral leases and does not belong to any class of persons who claim to be hurt by the lease agreement.

Dockery's attorney, Q. Byrum Hurst Jr. of Hurst, Morrissey & Hurst in Hot Springs, said he disagreed.

"I don't believe that's an accurate statement of the law," Hurst said. "He does have an injury because he's a taxpayer in the state of Arkansas. I think we'll prevail on that issue but we'll certainly ask the court to make a ruling."

Hurst described his client as "something of a social activist" and said Dockery filed the suit on behalf of the entire state. Hurst said Dockery wanted a ruling on the issue from the courts opposed to previously issued attorney general opinions.

Jim Goodhart, general counsel for the Game and Fish Commission, said he didn't have much to say about the suit.

"We've essentially responded and we will be defending the agency based on the legal defenses that are outlined in our answer to the lawsuit," Goodhart said.

Game and Fish Commission sued over natural-gas money

Goodhart said Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow PLLC will take the lead during litigation while his office will serve as co-counsel.

"My attorneys here are working on the case as well, but we have a significant number of legal matters pending and we wanted to have some specialized litigation assistance," Goodhart said. "We handle a lot of litigation firsthand in our agency, but we only have three lawyers in our office."

Goodhart said he hopes the case will be over quickly.

"The plaintiff 's asked the court for expedited consideration on the court's docket and when we answered, we responded that we also would appreciate the court's expedited consideration," Goodhart said. "So we're hoping it will move quicker than usual matters."

The Perroni and Koehler law firm in Little Rock is joining Hurst in the suit which also asks the court to prohibit the Game and Fish Commission from us- ing any of the money until a ruling is issued.

Hurst was unavailable for comment, but Sam Perroni said the firm agreed to assist because "we believe in the issue."

"We were asked to assist primarily because he needs some local counsel to help facilitate things," Perroni said. "Also we have had some experience over the years with cases of this nature."

In July 2008, the commission reached a $29.5 million agreement with Chesapeake Energy for the lease of 11,500 acres in the Gulf Mountain and Petit Jean River wildlife management areas.

The Gulf Mountain site in Van Buren County is situated over the Fayetteville Shale, a geologic formation primarily in north-central Arkansas that's proved to be rich in natural gas. The lease is for $28.3 million for 4,000 acres.

The Petit Jean River Wildlife Management Area lease totals $1.2 million. That land is considered part of the Arkoma basin, where Chesapeake Energy has natural gas operations in nonshale formations.

Both leases are for five years and carry a 20 percent royalty payment - well above the 12.5 percent minimum royalty mandated by state law. If the company produces gas on the land, it can automatically renew the leases.

Drilling in the Fayetteville Shale is projected to have a $22 billion effect on the state's economy between 2005 and 2012, according to a study by the University of Arkansas that was partially funded by Chesapeake Energy.

Gov. Mike Beebe had called on the constitutionally independent Game and Fish Commission to share its revenue from leasing wildlife management land, saying the money belonged to "all 2.8 million Arkansans."

However, Goodhart raised concerns that spending the money on nonwildlife causes would risk the Game and Fish Commission's eligibility to receive future federal grants, which total about $20 million a year. The agency submitted a $95.4 million budget for the 2008-09 biennium.

In September 2008, Loren Hitchcock, deputy director of the Game and Fish Commission, reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had given the green light for the agency to share the funds with the state's Oil and Gas Commission and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which is set to get $3.5 million of the lease revenue.

When Beebe was attorney general, he issued an opinion on the issue in 2006, which reads in part:

"In my opinion the funds may not be redirected to purposes other than those listed in Amendment 35. As noted above, the funds may only be expended for 'the control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of the birds, fish and wildlife resources of the State' and for 'no other purposes.'"

Amendment 35 to the Arkansas Constitution established the commission as a nearly independent state agency.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Game and Fish Commission sued over use of gas-leasing money

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Lawsuit Filed Over Leases To Gas Company

By The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK -- A lawsuit filed in Pulaski County aims to stop the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission from solely using the money generated from leasing state lands to Chesapeake Energy Corp.

James Dockery of Little Rock filed the suit against the commission, which will be getting about $30 million from land leases to the gas exploration company in wildlife management areas. Dockery claims the money should go into the state’s general budget and be available to all agencies.

“Historically, leasing Game & Fish land is for the purposes of hunting and fishing,” Byrum Hurst Jr., Dockery’s lawyer, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Now, we have a situation unique in the state. All of a sudden we have Game and Fish property being leased to oil and gas companies and producing not only oil and gas, but huge amounts of revenue that appears to be headed to the pockets of the Game & Fish Commission and nowhere else.”

Jim Goodhart, general counsel for the Game & Fish Commission, said, “We’re aware that we’ve been sued.”

“I’m not going to comment on what is in the lawsuit because we’ve not been served yet,” Goodhart said Friday. “We expect to be served, and after we’ve had an opportunity to review it, we’ll take appropriate action to defend the state’s interest.”

The commission voted in July 2008 to accept the terms of the leases with Chesapeake for drilling rights in the Gulf Mountain and Petit Jean River wildlife management areas after taking bids on the opportunity to explore the lands. The leases will allow the Oklahoma City-based company to have access to more than 7,500 acres in the Petit Jean River WMA in Yell County and nearly 4,000 acres in the Gulf Mountain WMA in Van Buren County.

Though the commission initially balked at offering other state agencies any of the money, it later agreed to share $3.5 million with environmental regulators.

Dockery’s lawsuit cites the environmental concerns that might arise from exploration in the state’s Fayetteville Shale play as a reason for the need to share the money.

“The general public, including the Plaintiff, has not been informed as to whether the chemicals used to extract gas are toxic or contains various toxins which could be harmful,” the suit claims.

Teresa Marks, the director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, said she hadn’t studied the lawsuit. However, she sought to put to rest Dockery’s concerns about the effects of drilling.

“It appears to me that the plaintiff is concerned about environmental protection in the state,” Marks said. “If that is something he is concerned about, then he should be pleased that we are getting some of that money because it will certainly be going to the protection of the environment in the state.”