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ANR Pipeline: Introducing TransCanada’s Keystone XL for Fracking

2:14 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog   

When most environmentalists and folks who follow pipeline markets think of TransCanada, they think of the proposed northern half of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Flying beneath the public radar, though, is another TransCanada-proposed pipeline with a similar function as Keystone XL. But rather than for carrying tar sands bitumen to the Gulf Coast, this pipeline would bring to market shale gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

Meet TransCanada’s ANR Pipeline System.

Although not actually a new pipeline system, TransCanada wants ANR retooled to serve domestic and export markets for gas fracked from the Marcellus Shale basin and the Utica Shale basin via its Southeast Main Line.

“The [current Southeast Main Line] moves gas from south Louisiana (including offshore) to Michigan where it has a strong market presence,” explains a March 27 article appearing in industry publication RBN EnergyBecause of the immense amount of shale gas being produced in the Marcellus and Utica, TransCanada seeks a flow reversal in the Southeast Main Line of itsANR Pipeline System. 

TransCanada spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger told DeSmogBlog that ANR’s flow reversal is a “more efficient use of the system based on market demand.”

TransCanada has already drawn significant interest from customers in the open seasons and negotiations held to date, so much so it expects to begin the flow reversal in 2015.

“ANR Pipeline system has secured almost 2.0 billion cubic feet a day (Bcf/d) of firm natural gas transportation commitments on its Southeast Main Line (SEML) at maximum rates for an average term of 23 years,” reads a March 31 TransCanada press release. ”ANR secured contracts on available capacity on the [South East Mainline] to move Utica and Marcellus shale gas to points north and south on the system.”

Like Keystone XL, an Export Pipeline

Like Keystone XL, ANR’s flow reversal will serve — among other things — the global export market.

“This project will…allow more natural gas to move south to the Gulf Coast, where markets are experiencing a resurgence of natural gas demand for industrial use, as well as significant new demand related to natural gas exports from recently approved liquefaction terminals,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said in his company’s March 31 press release.

ANR will continue to be an attractive transportation option due to its strategic foot print, interconnections, on-system storage and access to high demand markets.

With the debate over liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports heating up in the U.S.,ANR has arrived on scene right in the knick of time for the oil and gas industry.

Other Keystone XL: Cove Point or Sabine Pass?

Some recent media coverage of the prospective Dominion Cove Point LNG export facility located in Lusby, Maryland has drawn comparisons to the Keystone XLdebate because both involve key pipeline systems, with accompanying plans to export product globally and the Obama Administration has final say over approval (or disapproval) of the pipeline.

Yet, while Cove Point awaits final approval from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility wasapproved by FERC in April 2012 and opens for business in late 2015.

Enter TransCanada into the mix with ANR and it’s the perfect storm: a KeystoneXL pipeline for fracking run by the same company that owns Keystone XL.

Creole Trail: ANR’s Connection to Sabine Pass

ANR feeds into the same Gulf Coast export and refinery markets Keystone XL is set to feed into (and the same ones its already-existing southern half, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project feeds into).

Port Arthur, Texas — the end point for Keystone XL — is a mere 20 minute drive away from Sabine Pass, Louisiana.

That’s where Cheniere’s Creole Trail Pipeline comes into play, a 94-mile pipeline completed in 2008. Cheniere proposed an expansion project in September 2013 to FERC for Creole Trail, which FERC is still currently reviewing.

If granted the permit by FERC, the expansion would allow Creole Trail to connect to TransCanada’s ANR pipeline at the Mamou Compressor Station located in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. 

Mamou Compressor Station already received an expedited air permit in October 2013 from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Exports Gone Wild, Climate Disruption Gone Wild

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Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon Buys Fracking Wells In Ohio’s Utica Shale

9:41 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO and Founder Aubrey McClendon is back in the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) game in Ohio’s Utica Shale in a big way, receiving a permit to frack five wells from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on November 26.

“The Ohio Department of Natural Resources awarded McClendon’s new company, American Energy Utica LLC, five horizontal well permits Nov. 26 that allows oil and gas exploration on the Jones property in Nottingham Township, Harrison County,” a December 6 article appearing in The Business Journal explained. “In October, American Energy Utica announced it has raised $1.7 billion in capital to secure new leases in the Utica shale play.”

McClendon is the former CEO of fracking giant Chesapeake Energy and now the owner of American Energy Partners, whose office is located less than a mile away from Chesapeake’s corporate headquarters.

The $1.7 billion McClendon has received in capital investments for the purchase of 110,000 acres worth of Utica Shale land came from the Energy & Minerals GroupFirst Reserve CorporationBlackRock Inc. and Magnetar Capital.

McClendon — a central figure in Gregory Zuckerman’s recent book “The Frackers” — is currently under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He left Chesapeake in January 2013 following a shareholder revolt over controversial business practices.

In departing, he was given a $35 million severance package, access to the company’s private jets through 2016 and a 2.5% stake in every well Chesapeake fracks through June 2014 as part of the Founder’s Well Participation Program.

Little discussed beyond the business press, McClendon has teamed up with a prominent business partner for his new start-up: former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond.

Power Mapping McClendon’s New Venture

“[Lee] Raymond has emerged as a director alongside Mr. McClendon in American Energy Ohio Holdings LLC… according to [an SEC] regulatory filing,” The Wall Street Journal reported in October.

The former Exxon CEO’s brother son John Raymond is the Managing Partner, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Executive Officer of Minerals & Energy Group, currently the largest capital investor in McClendon’s start-up venture. He is also a partner McClendon’s new venture. Ryan Turner, Chesapeake’s Stock Plan Manager has also joined the team as a partner.

“Jefferies Group LLC gave financial advice to American Energy” for the deal,according to Bloomberg — and is listed as such on American Energy Ohio Holdings LLC’s SEC Form D.

Ralph Eads III — McClendon’s fraternity brother at Duke University — serves as Global Head of Energy Investment Banking at Jefferies Group, Inc.

“Mr. Eads…is a prince of this world,” the New York Times reported in October 2012. ”His financial innovations helped feed the gas drilling boom, and he has participated in $159 billion worth of oil and gas deals since 2007.”

Eads maintained tight financial ties with McClendon when he was at the helm of Chesapeake Energy.

High Stakes Game

In teaming up with Lee Raymond, the former CEO of ExxonMobil — notorious for its role in funding climate change denial — and his brother John, McClendon has shown he is back in Ohio ready to play ball.

But a recent Environmental Integrity Project report indicates the life-cycle climate change impacts of fracking are more severe than previously thought.

With the U.S. Navy predicting an ice-free Arctic summer by 2016 due to climate change, it’s a ball game with undeniably high stakes.

Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

1:37 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post.

Filed on September 25 in Belmont County’s Court of Common Pleas, Murray’s complaint accuses Mike Stark, creator of FossilAgenda.com and Stark Reports, and The Huffington Post of defamation and invasion of privacy stemming from Mr. Stark’s September 20 article, “Meet the Extremist Coal Baron Bankrolling Ken Cuccinelli’s Campaign.”

Stark, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and David Halperin, former Executive Director of the Center for American Progress’ Campus Progress (now Generation Progress), pushed back this week, issuing a motion to dismiss charges to the judge-of-record for the case.

Published in the midst of the heated Virginia gubernatorial race between Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe – one of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign chairmen – Stark’s piece struck a nerve with Murray, one of Cuccinelli’s key campaign contributors.

In the piece published on The Huffington Post, Stark points to the $30,000 that Murray Energy has given Cuccinelli, as well as Robert Murray’s campaign work on behalf of 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Stark also covers Murray’s call for the impeachment of President Obama at a recent speaking engagement, along with his firing of 150 workers after Obama’s 2012 victory over Mitt Romney and the prayer he offered the U.S. public after Obama’s 2012 victory.

The rationale behind the defamation suit for Murray boils down to Stark and The HuffPost referring to Murray as an “extremist” and pointing to the firing of the 150 Murray Energy workers as a potential “fulfillment of a promise” after the 2012 presidential election.

“The Defamatory Statements…were published with malice…[and] were understood and interpreted by readers of The Huffington Post to be assertions of fact, not opinion,” says Murray’s complaint. “These false and defamatory statements have severely harmed the reputation of the Murray plaintiffs [and have] caused great mental anguish and emotional distress for Plaintiff Robert E. Murray and his family members.”

Even though defamation charges generally apply exclusively to people with a prominent public profile, like Murray, his attorneys have also doled out false light invasion of privacy charges to Stark and HuffPost, as well, implying Murray is not a public figure at all.

“Murray is neither a public figure not a limited public figure in that he has neither voluntarily sought public or media attention, nor has he achieved such a status by reason of the notoriety of his achievements,” reads the complaint.

Plaintiffs: Lost Profits, Tarnished Reputation

Of the 39 paragraphs in Murray’s defamation charge count, nine of them argue Stark and The Huffington Post have damaged Murray personally and professionally and will end up hurting his company’s profit margins.

“Publication of the Defamatory Statements has caused and will continue to cause Murray and members of [his] family to suffer great mental anguish and emotional distress,” the complaint reads. “Murray Energy’s standing in the business community as a respected corporate citizen has been damaged by the publication of the Defamatory Statements.”

For Murray, it all boils down to the possibility of the loss of cold, hard cash.

“Publication of the Defamatory Statements will cause lenders to be less willing to engage in financing transactions with the Murray Plaintiffs, thereby preventing them from gainging access to capital needed to operate their businesses or making it more difficult and expensive for them to obtain such capital,” reads the complaint. ”Publication of the Defamatory Statements will cause the Murray Plaintiffs to suffer a loss of business opportunities and loss of potential and/or existing customers for their businesses.”

In all, Murray has asked Stark and HuffPost for over $75,000 in damages, plus paying the court fees and costs of Murray’s attorneys.

Murray is represented by Kevin Anderson of Fabian & Clendenin, who sits on the Utah Mining Association’s Executive Committee, as well as by two attorneys from Murray’s in-house counsel and Mark Stemm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur.

Stark’s Attorneys Issue Motion to Dismiss

On November 1, attorneys representing Mike Stark hit back. (The HuffPost has its own set of attorneys working on its behalf who will respond soon.)

They have requested that the judge of record for the case issue a motion to dismiss the case on its face, and offer space for a date in court to hear out an oral argument between Stark and the Murray Plaintiffs.

Stark’s motion to dismiss was brought to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, where the case has moved to from the Belmont County Court of Common Pleas. ACLU of Ohio and Halperin open up the motion to dismiss with a bang.

“Stark’s article contains no false statements of fact, nor is it misleading, nor does it place Murray in a false light,” they wrote. “More importantly, for purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the statements in the article about which Plaintiffs complain are not assertions of fact. Rather, the Complaint takes issue only with opinions offered by Stark in the article.”

The rest of the argument tackles the distinction between a straightforward news piece and the opinion-based nature of blogs published in The Huffington Post.

Citing a litany of cases, Stark’s attorneys point to a simple fact: opinion pieces both in the state of Ohio and as enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court are essentially legally immune from defamation suits.

“Stark is a persistent, aggressive critic of the coal industry, political conservatives, and others, and an advocate for policy reforms. Thus, the immediate context factor strongly favors viewing Stark’s statements in the article as opinion, not fact,” the attorneys argue in the motion to dismiss. “The Court may take judicial notice that the Huffington Post blog is a well-known forum for people to write opinion articles – the online equivalent of a newspaper editorial page.”

The defense also fends off Murray’s attorneys bringing a defamation suit while at the same time saying he’s not a famous individual.

“[This lacks both] factual support and it is directly contradicted by the Complaint as a whole,” argued the defense. “Murray is the well-known head of one of the country’s largest corporations, and he has, by his own admission, deliberately asserted himself into public controversies about public policy, politics, and elections.”

In order for Murray’s complaint to prevail, he must prove “actual malice” on Stark’s part, the defense argues. They don’t think Murray’s attorneys complaint passes that legal bar and therefore the case should be dismissed out of hand.

“Even if the Complaint were interpreted to allege false statements of fact, this Court should dismiss for the additional reason that Complaint does not allege any facts to support the assertion that Stark acted with actual malice, that is, with knowledge that a statement was false or with reckless disregard for whether a statement was false – the legal threshold for a defamation claim brought by a public figure,” reads the motion to dismiss.

Defamation Lawsuits as SLAPP Lawsuits

This isn’t Murray’s first time bringing a defamation lawsuit against a journalist.

Rather, it’s the continuation of a trend of using suits of this sort as a bludgeon to intimidate journalists from writing stories shedding his actions both as an individual and owner of a major coal corporation in a negative light.

TransCanada – owner of the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - has used similar legal tactics, utilizing the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in its attempt to halt Tar Sands Blockade activists from committing acts of non-violent civil disobedience in Oklahoma and Texas in its attempt to fend off construction of Keystone XL’s southern half.

“[Murray] likely realizes that a lawsuit like this has the effect of diverting resources that a writer or activist like Mike Stark might otherwise use to expose and question the actions of Murray, Murray Energy, and the coal industry,” explained the defense. “This kind of lawsuit could also deter others from engaging in commentary and criticism about Murray and these issues.”

It’s a classic case of the “chilling effect,” with the defense noting Murray has at least two other defamation lawsuits pending in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, also filing suit in 2012 and eventually settling with prominent Charleston Gazette‎ reporter and author of the “Coal Tattoo” blogKen Ward, Jr.

“To the extent that this lawsuit may have the purpose or the effect of chilling free speech on matters of public concern, it is precisely the kind of situation the courts have sought to address,” the defense wrote in its conclusion.

Under the federal court rules, a response to a motion is due 14 days after the motion is filed, meaning Murray’s attorneys have until November 15 to rebut the defense’s motion to dismiss.

Congressmen Supporting Fracked Gas Exports Took $11.5 Million From Big Oil, Electric Utilities

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

south texas oil

South Texas Oil Refinery

On Jan. 25, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 94 Republicans and 16 Democrats - signed a letter urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve expanded exports of liquified natural gas (LNG).

It was an overt sign of solidarity with the Obama Administration Department of Energy’s (DOE) LNG exports study, produced by a corporate consulting firm with long ties to Big Tobacco named NERA Economic Consulting (NERA is short for National Economic Research Associates), co-founded in 1961 by the “Father of Deregulation,” Alfred E. Kahn. That study concluded exporting gas obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process - sent via pipelines to coastal LNG terminals and then onto tankers – is in the best economic interests of the United States.

A DeSmogBlog investigation shows that these 110 signatories accepted $11.5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and electric utilities in the run-up to the November 2012 election, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Big Oil pumped $7.9 million into the signatories’ coffers, while the remaining $3.6 million came from the electric utilities industry, two industries whose pocketbooks would widen with the mass exportation of the U.S. shale gas bounty. Further, 108 of the 110 signers represent states in which fracking is occurring.

Exhibit A: Human Geography of Campaign Finance Post-Citizens United

Energy issues are almost always questions of infrastructure, geography, and geopolitics. So too is the case of LNG exports, with this letter serving as Exhibit A of the new human geography of campaign finance in the post-Citizens United world.

Texas

The expression always seems to ring true: everything is bigger in Texas.

This letter is no different, as 19 of the 110 signatories represent congressional districts in The Lone Star State, 12 Republicans and seven Democrats. Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford Shale basin and the Barnett Shale basin, as well as prospective LNG export terminals in Sabine Pass (co-owned by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum), Freeport (partially owned by ConocoPhillips) and Corpus Christi (owned by LNG export giant, Cheniere).

The “Texas 19″ alone raked in $2.5 million from Big Oil and electric utilities. 

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX8), a recipient of $166,000 from Big Oil and another $23,000 from the electric utilities industry, oversees a congressional district in part based in Houston, the corporate epicenter for the oil and gas industry and home to the innovative leader in the sphere of LNG exports, Cheniere Energy. ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy, the number one and two producers of unconventional gas in the U.S., each gave Brady $10,000 before his 2012 electoral victory. Anadarko, Marathon and Valero also followed suit with $10,000 contributions and ConocoPhillips chipped in an extra $7,500.

Brady’s Texas colleague Joe Barton (R-TX6), whose congressional district in large part overlaps the Barnett Shale basin, took $162,150 from Big Oil and another $124,950 from the electric utilities industry. He received $13,000 from utilities giant Exelon Corporation, $12,500 from ExxonMobil, $10,000 from Koch Industries, $7,000 from Chevron and $5,000 from Chesapeake Energy. Koch Industries’ Koch Pipeline runs from the Eagle Ford Shale basin to Corpus Christi.

The Dirty, Dirty South

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Chesapeake Energy Tied to Mansfield, OH Bill of Rights Astroturf Attack

1:10 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The oil and gas industry is waging an 11th hour astroturf campaign in Mansfield, OH in an attempt to defeat the “Community Bill of Rights“ referendum.

A “yes” vote would, in effect, prohibit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) injection wells in Mansfield, a city of 48,000 located in the heart of the Utica Shale basin between Cleveland and Columbus.

In March 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) conducted a study linking the 12 earthquakes that have occurred in Youngstown, OH to injection wells located in the city. Further, recent investigative reports by ProPublica show that these new dumping grounds – with a staggering 150,000 injection wells in 33 states and 10 trillion gallons of toxic fluid underground - are a public health hazard in the making.

And yet, for the most part, hardly anyone is talking about it.

Preferred Fluids Management LLC is the upstart business that received two well injection permits from the ODNR in the spring of 2011 that motivated the “Bill of Rights” initiative. Industry front groups ranging from Energy in Depth (EID), Energy CitizensOhio Energy Resource Alliance and “Mansfielders for Jobs” are leading the charge in the astroturf campaign to defeat it.

Why, though, has the fracking industry put so much time and effort into the placement of a measly two injection wells in Mansfield for this relatively unheard of LLC? Michael Chadsey of EID Ohio explained the importance of the waste dumping grounds at a forum on Jan. 30, 2012, stating,

If for some reason they just said, you know, we’re going to stop this process, eventually the tanks that are on-site are going to get filled up. And then all the drilling pads are going to have to shut down and all of the truck drivers will have to stop.

So…this is the part of the process that is the end part of the process. When you shut down the end, you can’t even start or continue because you have to have all the pieces of the puzzle to make this thing move. Everything is interconnected.

There’s that and then there’s the fact that Preferred Fluids Management LLC isn’t merely a “new kid on the block.” Owned and founded by Steven Mobley, the business has a story of its own worthy of sharing, as it’s closely connected to gas industry powerhouse, Chesapeake Energy.

Preferred Fluids Management LLC: A Quick Primer

According to documents on the Ohio Secretary of State’s Division of Corporations website, Preferred Fluids Management was originally incorporated in February 2010. Since then, fracking waste injection wells have been in the eye of the backlash storm from grassroots activists, environmental NGOs, lawyers, and both federal- and state-level regulators nationwide.

In Ohio, this ongoing backlash motivated Preferred Fluids to withdraw its Mansfield well permits on June 26, 2012.

“While this withdrawal appears to be a city victory over a company that sought to injection toxic poison into our soil, the city must remain vigilant against other companies,” Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker and Law Director John Spon declared.

Roughly three weeks later, Preferred Fluids responded by filing a federal lawsuit in the Northern District Court of Ohio, stating that Mansfield “has no right under Ohio law to regulate the injection wells,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In response to the lawsuit, on Sept. 9 the Mansfield City Council voted to put the “Community Bill of Rights” referendum on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election.

The crazy set of twists and turns continued, when on Oct. 19, perhaps seeing that it’d been one-upped by the citizens of Mansfield, Preferred Fluids decided to drop its federal lawsuit.

“The need to adopt the charter amendment is even greater because it’s very possible that this industry is just regrouping to commence another assault,” Mansfield Law Director John Spon told the Mansfield News Journal, foreshadowing the astroturf battle citizens and grassroots activists are facing in Mansfield.

On Oct 5, 2011 Preferred Fluids Management owner Steven Mobley also incorporated a new company, Buckeye Brine LLC, according to the Ohio Department of State’s Division of Corporations. “It seeks to be a positive force in the communities in which it operates, buying and hiring locally whenever possible, with a strong commitment to local community causes,” according to Buckeye Brine’s website.

The Coshocton Tribune explained that, like Mobley’s Preferred Fluids Management proposal in Mansfield, the plan is to place two injection wells in Coshocton, a city of just over 11,000 southeast of Mansfield.

Buckeye Brine says it will only bring five jobs to Coshocton and has the capacity to process 4,000 to 5,000 barrels of waste fluids a day, according to the Tribune.

Mobley Family Connection to Chesapeake, Injection Wells, Earthquakes

The unanswered question remains on the table: who is Steven Mobley?

Steven Mobley’s brother is David Mobley, who currently serve as Chief Adminstrative Officer and formerly served as Land Manager of Chesapeake Operating Inc., a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy.

Steven and David were both formerly partial co-owners of their family business, Mobley Environmental Services, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) forms. Businessweek‘s profile for Mobley Environmental Services reads,

In May 1997, Mobley Environmental Services, Inc. sold its only operating division, waste management services, to United States Filter Corporation…It also provided oilfield services, including transporting, marketing, storing, and disposing of various liquid materials used or produced as waste throughout the lifecycle of oil and gas wells.

In 1999, Vivendi Environnement aquired United States Filter Corporation for $6.2 billion. Vivendi Environnement is now known as Veolia Environnement and remains in the oil and gas industry wastewater treatment sector. Facing hard financial times in 2004, Veolia sold US Filter for $1 billion to the German corporation, Siemens, which is also in the oil and gas industry wastewater treatment business.

The frightening and growing nexus between the water privatization industry, the shale gas industry, and the wastewater treatment industry has been pointed out in reports authored by both the Colorado Independent and Food and Water Watch.

Like Mobley Environmental Services and its predecessors – and like Preferred Fluids Management and Buckeye Brine – Chesapeake Operating is also in the fracking wastewater injection business, notorious for its activity in Arkansas.

Paralleling Ohio, Arkansas, home of the Fayetteville Shale basin, has seen over 1,200 waste injection well-related earthquakes, leading the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to place a ban on injection wells in July 2011 in the area where the earthquakes were most prevalent, though there are still wells in other areas across the state. A February 2011 magnitude 4.7 earthquake near Greenbrier, “was the most powerful to hit the state in 35 years,” according to the Associated Press.

AP further explained that Chesapeake Energy was one of the main well injection operating culprits:

The two injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater from natural-gas production. One is owned by Chesapeake Energy, and the other by Clarita Operating. They agreed March 4 to temporarily cease injection operations at the request of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission.

The barrage of earthquakes served as a motivation for an ongoing class action lawsuit filed by Emerson Poynter LLP in May 2011 at the federal-level Faulkner County Circuit Court in Conway, AR against Chesapeake Operating, as well as BHP Billiton, Petroleum Americas Inc., and Clarita Operating LLC.

In a press release, Emerson Poynter explained it is suing for “millions of dollars in damages for property damage, loss of fair market value in real estate, emotional distress, and damages related to the purchase of earthquake insurance.”

Since the closure of the two injection wells, the number of earthquakes occuring in the area has fallen dramatically, according to the Arkansas Geological Survey.

Chesapeake is closely tethered to or is a member of all of the front groups waging the gas industry’s astroturf campaign in Mansfield, except for the shadowy “Mansfielders for Jobs,” including Energy in DepthAmerican Petroleum Institute, the Buckeye Energy Forum (API front group), and the Ohio Energy Resource Alliance (OERA).

OERA is an API front group led by the former head of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity Ohio, Rebecca Heimlich, who now also serves as Campaign Manager for API Ohio. OERA’s members include EID Ohio, API, the Ohio Oil & Gas Association (OOGA), and America’s Natural Gas Alliance, among others. Chesapeake is also a member of OOGA and ANGA.

Big Picture: Chesapeake’s Big Plans in the Utica Shale

Cheseapeake, a company currently in deep financial straits, sees the Utica Shale basin as a potential saving grace, with Forbes saying that the Utica is “crucial for Cheseapeake’s future” in a July article.

In a recent call with investors, controversial CEO Aubrey McClendon said he’s “thrilled” with its potential. He also said that Chesapeake is particularly focused on production in Columbiana, Carroll and Harrison counties.

These counties are all within 50-100 miles of Richland and Coshocton counties, the two counties where Preferred Fluid Management LLC’s and Buckeye Brine LLC’s operations are both set to be located, respectively. That makes Richland and Coshocton easily accessible dumping grounds for Chesapeake’s toxic waste.

The fracking waste injection business is a burgeoning and lucrative one, but with it comes huge costs that go above and beyond earthquakes alone.

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years at the EPA’s underground injection program told ProPublica. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

Grassroots activists have pledged to fight this one tooth and nail as the high stakes battle goes down to the wire.

“The battle lines are being drawn between the greed of the oil and gas industry and the rights of individuals at the local level, Bill Baker, an organizer for Frack Free Ohio told DeSmogBlog in an interview. ”Powerful organizations with no vested interest in the Mansfield community, other than to turn it into a toxic waste dump, are spending millions in advertising to convince citizens to vote ‘no’ on the Bill of Rights.”