As more than 230 people from 25 states and Canada gathered last week in Pittsburgh, the EARTHWORKS National People s Oil and Gas Summit shone a bright light on both shared problems and the potential for lasting solutions. As participants listened to presentations by scientists and citizens, held lively discussions, and got busy strategizing, the idea that there is far more that unites than divides us rang true.
Reports of serious health problems in the oil and gas patches of Texas, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania are tragically similar, and bad leasing, drilling, and waste disposal practices are now ubiquitous. As both drilling for and consumption of natural gas spreads across the nation, the true costs of dirty energy development have become harder to ignore the West, with its longstanding energy development, and the East, with its newly exploited shale gas plays, increasingly share common interests and stories. And as climate change and pollution accelerate, only a collective quickening of the pace will win the race for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.
This past Sunday, Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, was interviewed on CBS 60 Minutes.
Although he defended natural gas extraction, he also acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) a process that facilities the extraction of natural gas from over 90% of wells drilled in the United States injects the equivalent of Drano through the water table groundwater that provides drinking water for much of America.
Finally, a major energy industry CEO is admitting the truth that fracking chemicals are toxic, like Drano.
It didn t take long after the mid-term election last week for winners, pundits, and the media to attribute the results to a rejection of a new reform agenda in Washington. Unfortunately, when it comes to energy policy, the elections did deliver a solid victory for the status quo.
Politicians of all stripes and at all levels of government are loudly calling for more extraction of fossil fuels, including natural gas. But when it comes to the need for stronger government regulation and oversight to protect public health and the environment, political voices remain a mere whisper.
Drillers certainly liked what they heard the day after the elections, when former White House aide Karl Rove prognosticated that legislation to stem climate change and regulate the gas industry will simply be "gone" with the new Congress. (Rove s political group Crossroads Ventures spent $300,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a lead proponent of the FRAC Act to require companies to disclose the toxic chemicals they pump into the ground.)
Clearfield County, Pennsylvania and the Gulf of Mexico don t seem to have much in common. Different landscapes, environments, communities. But now these far-flung locations are linked by accidents that the oil and gas industry insists are unlikely to happen, and the failure of blowout preventers it considers an adequate safeguard.
Here's another certainty regarding the energy industry: without adequate oversight, well-funded enforcement, and elimination of cozy relationships, it will successfully push the true cost of energy extraction's environmental risk onto communities who will pay the price of polluted land, property, drinking water, and health.
In the aftermath of the election this week, President Obama made remarks that struck fear in the hearts of communities facing natural gas extraction in their backyards.
"We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those?" was the question President Obama asked.
The question he SHOULD have been asking is (find out after the jump):
LONDON -- For weeks, Anglo American PLC have been running ads in the Guardian, the Economist and at Heathrow Airport, touting the benefits their mines bring to communities. Alaska Natives from Bristol Bay, where Anglo American proposes to dig the largest open-pit mine in North America, have today replied to this greenwashing by taking out a full-page ad in CityAM with a blunt message to the company.
Much more info, including the full-page ad, after the jump.