Martha Reclamation Program: Dump and Run

Toxic Soup: Ashland's Radioactive Sludge Pits

Toxic Soup: Radiation at Blaine Elementary School

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ashland: Your Water Table Ends at Your Property Line

The Cantrell v. Ashland case has gone on appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.  Written briefs have been submitted to the Court by both sides and oral arguments are pending.  We scratch our head when we read this stuff, since the lower court’s actions are riddled with errors, handing the verdict to Ashland.

One of the big errors committed by the lower court was restricting the testimony of Bob Grace, a petroleum engineer with oil field experience and particular expertise in water flooding and other secondary recovery techniques.  Grace reviewed the records for several wells, including those on the plaintiff’s property.  He opined that Ashland’s methods were reckless, dangerous and grossly negligent and contaminated the land, surface waters and aquifers of the Martha Oil Field.  He added that the improper use of nitroglycerin and high pressure water injection fractured the underground rock formations, permitting radioactive material to migrate between formations and contaminate the oil field.

Ashland objected to this testimony because they had not committed all these activities specifically on the plaintiff’s property.  Grace was not allowed to talk about the use of nitroglycerin or hydrofracking since these techniques were not used of the plaintiff’s property per se, even though they were used throughout the Martha Oil Field as part of Ashland’s secondary recovery program.  Hydrofracking on a neighbor’s property is inadmissible evidence if the neighbor is not part of the lawsuit.  This is ridiculous since the effects of nitroglycerin explosions and hydrofracking are not likely to be limited by property lines.  You guys in the Marcellus Shale zone should take note of this legal technique, since it may be used against you in the future.

The plantiffs really got the shaft from the lower court when Grace’s testimony was excluded since they could not demonstrate that Ashland’s behavior throughout the Martha Oil Field, which Ashland managed for decades, was a gross deviation from industry standards.  Ashland’s D.C. law firm bragged on their web site that “One of the foundations of the favorable verdict, and its affirmation on appeal was the success of key pretrial efforts led by members our team to limit the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts.”

It seems to us that once again the lawyers get to pad their resumes and we get to glow in the dark.


  1. Martha -
    I think your blog is great. Keep up the good work. You might have a profile section with contact info - I couldn't find it on the blog.
    Rancho Los Malulos

  2. Thanks. We had a technical difficulty with the email icon. We think it's fixed now and hope to keep it that way.