Here is just a small sample of how the Oil and Gas industry has corrupted our politics at every level from the Federal government (remember BP and Halliburtion) to the state level. I give you the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission:
PLATTEVILLE Colorado's wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.
At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.
But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.
This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.
State rules obligate regulators to take a collaborative approach, negotiating remedies when possible rather than cracking down. In fact, the COGCC recently declared four companies responsible for the largest number of spills to be "Outstanding Operators" and lauded them for environmental excellence.
Oil and gas companies have reported 343 new spills this year, bringing the total since August 2009 to more than 1,000 spills, state data show.
More spills, fewer fines (for spills that happened three years ago? What about all the spills right now?) for chump change ($531,000?), and more "Outstanding Job Mr Oil and Gas Company! Keep up the Good Work" pats on the back for the worst polluters. Something tells me this is not confined to Colorado.
Guess what? It's not. Let's visit Texas, shall we. Read this 2009 report about the gas production in the Barnett Shale region of North Central Texas (i.e., the area where Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area is located):
For 2009, emissions of smog-forming compounds from compressor engine exhausts and tanks were predicted to be approximately 96 tons per day (tpd) on an annual average, with peak summer emissions of 212 tpd. Emissions during the summer increase because of the effects of temperature on volatile organic compound emissions from storage tanks. Emissions of smog-forming compounds in 2009 from all oil and gas sources were estimated to be approximately 191 tpd on an annual average, with peak summer emissions of 307 tpd. The portion of those emissions originating from the 5-counties in the D-FW metropolitan area with significant oil and gas production was 165 tpd during the summer.
For comparison, 2009 emission inventories recently used by state and federal regulators estimated smog forming emissions from all airports in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area to be 16 tpd. In addition, these same inventories had emission estimates for on-road motor vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) in the 9-
county Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area of 273 tpd. The portion of on-road motor vehicle emissions from the 5-counties in the D-FW metropolitan area with significant oil and gas production was 121 tpd, indicating that the oil and gas sector likely has greater emissions than motor vehicles in these counties.
So, producing oil and gas in the Dallas Ft. Worth Area of Texas likely produces more smog emissions than all the cars on the roads there. Well, everything is bigger in Texas. But wait, that's not all!
The emission rate of air toxic compounds (like benzene and formaldehyde) from Barnett Shale activities was predicted to be approximately 6 tpd on an annual average, and 17 tpd during peak summer days. The largest contributors to air toxic emissions were the condensate tanks, followed by the engine exhausts.
In addition, predicted 2009 emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane were approximately 33,000 tons per day of CO2 equivalent. This is roughly equivalent to the expected greenhouse gas impact from two 750 MW coal-fired power plants. The largest contributors to the Barnett Shale greenhouse gas impact were CO2 emissions from compressor engine exhausts and fugitive CH4 emissions from all source types.
That's nothing to sneeze at. Toxic chemicals released into the air and more greenhouse gas emissions than two 750 Mega-Watt Coal Burning Power Plants? I'm impressed. That's some dirty air they have got going on down there. And yet for some reason the Texas rail Road Commission (RCC) keeps increasing the number of permits for gas wells in the Barnett shale area by -- well a helluva a lot, my friends, a helluva lot:
The issuance of new Barnett Shale area drilling permits has been following the upward trend of increasing natural gas production. The RRC issued 1112 well permits in 2004, 1629 in 2005, 2507 in 2006, 3657 in 2007, and they are on-track to issue over 4000 permits in 2008. The vast majority of the wells and permits are for natural gas production, but a small number of oil wells are also in operation or permitted in the area, and some oil wells co-produce casing head gas. As of June 2008, over 7700 wells had been registered with the RRC ...
Here's a graph for you which illustrates the increase of natural gas production and permits issued by Texas from 1993-2006 in the Barnett Shale region:
Click here to see larger image. Trust me, more permits and more gas has been produced by the Barnett shale since 2007. And guess how they are doing it" If you guessed our old friend hydrofracking, good for you! Trouble is, some people in Texas don't like all these toxic emissions being spewed into the air and the groundwater where they live. They don't think extracting natural gas by suing hydrotracking is as clean as Big Oil keeps telling them it is:
Fracking fluid contains known toxins, which can contaminate local groundwater. The process can also cause natural gas itself to seep into the groundwater. Several households near drilling sites in Pennsylvania have found that they can light their tapwater on fire. Methane that enters homes through water pipes can build up indoors, making the air unsafe to breathe and can even cause explosions. And according to Jean-Philipe Nicot, a geological engineer at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, if drilling in North Texas expands, the massive amount of water used in hydrofracking will start to compete with the water needed for drinking and farming in the drought-prone Barnett Shale region.
Hydrofracking can also cause air pollution. After residents of Dish, Texas, started complaining of headaches and blackouts and reported neurological defects and blindness in horses, the town hired a private environmental consultant who found that the town’s air contained large amounts of carcinogens and neurotoxins, likely originating from the 11 nearby natural gas compression stations.
So, these huge number of wells and that "clean burning" (cough cough) natural gas being produced is going to make it hard for these people living in a drought stricken area to find safe water to drink. Thank god they can still buy bottled water, eh? Free market system and all. But you know what really bothers me? If I had a family and children and I lived in that area, I wouldn't appreciate the fact that deadly neurotoxins and carcinogens are being inhaled every day by my family, along with all the smog these wells create. heck, even if you believe the lies about greenhouse gas emissions not being responsible for climate change (and I find it hard for anyone living in drought stricken, wild fire burning Texas this year to continue to believe the Koch Bros./Exxon sponsored propaganda) I'd be scared crazy about the health of my kids and my own health.
Of course, it isn't just Texas and Colorado that are looking the other way when it comes to producing natural gas from these shale formations. The EPA bears a lot of blame as well:
With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. [...]
While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.
The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.
Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.
The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.
But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.
Here's what one intrepid reporter from Utica, NY (where Big Oil is making a big push to drill more wells and ruin our state, too) discovered when he visited Pennsylvania communities where hydrofracking operations are ongoing:
The “new-fangled” fracking uses thousands of gallons of toxic carcinogenic chemicals, (including diesel fuel), mixed with millions of gallons of water and injected under extreme pressure into mile long horizontal wells. This highly controversial fracking began in earnest after 2005, when gas companies successfully lobbied Congress to exempt it from the 1972 Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund Act, and the Right to Know Law. Drillers can now ignore all EPA regulations and the chemicals they inject into the earth kept secret. [...]
This “new-fangled” fracking releases radioactive materials from deep within the earth. I saw tons of radioactive well bore grindings (pulverized rock) deposited in a local landfill. The radioactive “flow back” water is dumped into the Susquehanna River. The natural gas itself is also radioactive.
I saw several homes with gas ventilation systems on their wells and 500-gallon water tanks on their lawns. Water trucked to the tanks is used for washing dishes, laundry, bathing and flushing toilets. Their well water now contains high levels of barium, arsenic, lead, strontium, radium 226 and methane gas. They drink bottled water.
I saw hundreds of massive trucks traveling local roads. They run 24/7, as do the enormous, extremely noisy, gas pumping compressor stations. I saw heavy industry invading a beautiful, pristine rural county.
Sounds just dandy doesn't it? And no one at the Federal or state level is doing much to stop this juggernaut of an ongoing environmental catastrophe. It is as if we suddenly became the Soviet Union and the old Warsaw Pack countries, which back in the day allowed the worst environmental disasters to be covered up in the name of protecting thoer ideology at all costs, even the costs of contaminated air, water, health consequences for their people and higher mortality rates. Sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?
Guess who represents the new Corporate Politburo in America when it comes to advocating for the rights of major polluters? Yes, I know that's a rhetorical question:
Environmental protection in general and the EPA in particular are under vigorous assault by Republicans. The EPA is always on the lips of Republican Presidential candidates when it comes to their ridiculous, over-the-top lists of federal departments and programs to eliminate -- right up there with the Department of Education, HUD, Medicare, and Social Security. State legislatures, many of them under temporary Republican rule, are challenging the EPA in any way they can get away with. The right-wing media is dedicating serious air time to the idea that environmental protections are somehow bad for us.
In short, the American public is experiencing an unprecedented anti-environment policy and media blitz from the GOP and the big polluters that fund them.
Just to back up that statement, here's another link regarding the Republican plan to kill our environmental regulations so polluters can rake in even more profits while endangering the lives of every American:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says in a memo to his fellow Republicans that as soon as Congress returns to Washington next week he will start bringing up bills to repeal or restrict federal regulations. He also said the House would also act on a small business tax deduction. [...]
The GOP approach to job creation comes as President Barack Obama prepares to announce after Labor Day a broad jobs package expected to include tax cuts, infrastructure projects and help for the unemployed.
"By pursuing a steady repeal of job-destroying regulations, we can help lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over small and large employers alike, empowering them to hire more workers," Cantor said in his memo.
He said that in the first week after Congress returns from its August recess the House will vote on a bill preventing the National Labor Relations Board from restricting where an employer can locate in the United States. [Associated Press, 8/29/11]
The more Republicans are elected next year, the more people in America will suffer from health problems and terminal illnesses created by environmental degradation. That's not a prediction, that is what they are on record as saying they will do. I for one believe them. Any party that sabotages job creation, wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, and nearly shut down the government by refusing to raise the debt ceiling has to be taken seriously when they say they will kill the EPA and anyone else who stands in the way of its patrons, the major polluters in this country, Big Oil and Big Coal.
America the Beautiful will become America the Ecological Horror Reality Show. That's their plan. You better hope the Democrats find a way to win enough races next year and retain the White House (and yes, I'm not thrilled by Obama's environmental record, but any GOP President would be 100 times worse) to keep this nightmare from happening. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend upon it.