Big Men Film to be Broadcast on PBS on August 25, 2014

PBS Preimiere: August 25, 2014

Online: Aug. 26, 2014 – Sept. 24, 2014


Over five years, director Rachel Boynton and her cinematographer film the quest for oil in Ghana by Dallas-based Kosmos. The company develops the country’s first commercial oil field, yet its success is quickly compromised by political intrigue and accusations of corruption. As Ghanaians wait to reap the benefits of oil, the filmmakers discover violent resistance down the coast in the Niger Delta, where poor Nigerians have yet to prosper from decades-old oil fields. Big Men, executive produced by Brad Pitt, provides an unprecedented inside look at the global deal making and dark underside of energy development — a contest for money and power that is reshaping the world. Official Selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

Read the full film description.

Tom McGarity, “Texas Judge Throws Out Family’s Lawsuit That Blames Nosebleeds, Asthma On Fracking Fumes” (ClimateProgress)

ClimateProgress quoted Professor Tom McGarity in an August 18th story on a Texas family that claimed they were severely sickened by air pollution from two companies’ hydraulic fracturing operations near their home that has had their lawsuit against the companies thrown out last week. The judge’s ruling agreed with Marathon Oil Corp. and Plains Exploration & Production that Mike and Myra Cerny did not have enough scientific or medical proof that emissions alleged to be contaminating their air were causing their health problems. According to the story, “The ruling comes just a few months after a different family won $2.95 million in a separate Texas court on a lawsuit with similar claims.” “How can you have cases with similar facts and such different outcomes,” observed McGarity, adding that “There is a certain amount of judgment and that implies there is a certain amount of subjectivity.”

Tom McGarity, “Judge Throws Out Texas Family’s Fracking Pollution Case” (InsideClimate News)

Professor Tom McGarity was quoted recently in an InsideClimate News article about a Texas judge who has dismissed a million-dollar lawsuit by a Karnes County, Texas, family that says their lives have been ruined by noxious emissions from oil and gas facilities near their home. According to the article, the dismissal is in contrast to a case in which a jury awarded $2.9 million to a family who also claimed to be sickened by fracking emissions. “That two similar cases could have such different outcomes highlights vagaries of both the justice and regulatory system in Texas where the oil and gas industry is widely praised and supported,” the article stated. Professor Tom McGarity observed that “Judges try to do the right thing but they come at the task with certain preconceptions, adding that those preconceptions vary with the sentiments of the jurisdictions they represent.”

David Spence, “Can your town ban fracking? Depends on the state” (The Christian Science Monitor)

Professor David Spence was quoted recently in a Christian Science Monitor article about conflict between states and local governments over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” the proliferation of litigation pitting state regulators and landowners against local communities trying to restrict or ban fracking, and the resolution of those conflicts, is the subject of a forthcoming article in the Texas Law Review by Prof. Spence.


Melinda Taylor and Jeremy Brown, “Texas water plans must consider endangered species” (San Antonio Express-News)

Energy Center executive director Melinda Taylor and research fellow Jeremy Brown published an Op-Ed in the July 7th edition of the San Antonio Express News on the recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Texas did not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through the operation of its surface water program. The opinion also reverses a Corpus Christi court decision holding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) caused the deaths of 23 endangered whooping cranes during the 2008-2009 drought. Taylor and Brown warn that “[e]ven though it won the case, the TCEQ will need to develop strategies that balance the needs of humans and the natural environment if it is to avoid future conflicts with the ESA and the rare species the law is intended to protect.”