Earthworks, in partnership with Clean Water Action, recently published California’s first infrared analysis of oil & gas air pollution’s impact on communities.
When we began research for this report nearly a year ago, we discovered a disturbing lack of data specific to California on the health effects from oil & gas in our state. With a production of nearly 200 million barrels of oil in 2013 alone, this lack of data raises serious questions about our state’s priorities when it comes to protecting the health of its citizens.
We examined two communities. Our analysis found that residents living along with oil & gas production in Lost Hills (Kern County), and Upper Ojai (Ventura County), are at increased risk for health impacts from exposure to oil and gas air emissions.
This week, Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a three-year moratorium on fracking. The final vote: 93-45. The House also passed a crude-by-rail measure directing the state’s environment and health departments to study risks and find out how many crude oil trains travel through Maryland. The tally: 123-14. Both have margins sufficient to sustain a veto. The Maryland Senate also passed a fracking liability bill 29-17, also a large enough margin for a veto override. The proposals now sit in the opposite chamber awaiting a hearing with the clock ticking toward the end of the legislative session.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Minnesota is the nation’s most popular wilderness area. Straddling the border with Canada, this region includes one of the world’s most pristine ecosystems fed by a system of waterways supplied from the land of a thousand lakes. Scientists from around the world visit the Boundary Waters to study the wildlife and forest ecology of one of the most primitive natural environments still in existence. In addition to the natural beauty and scientific value, this wilderness supports a mature and robust recreation industry. Canoe outfitters, resorts, dogsledders, and other wilderness-based businesses comprise portions of a tourism industry that supports 18,000 jobs in northeastern Minnesota generating over $850 million in sales.
In 2010, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway released an eye-opening book, Merchants of Doubt, which explains how a few high-profile scientists with extensive political connections misled the public to deny well-established scientific facts. Over four decades these scientists, with the help of multi-million dollar public relations contracts and a scarily acquiescent media, these scientists cast doubt on the truth. Specifically, Merchants of Doubt covers the not-scientifically debatable, yet politically controversial topics of tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, global warming, and DDT.
North Dakota’s Bakken boom, and potential bust, are definitely in the news. Journalists, documentary filmmakers, landowners, and community groups have given it a name and a face. Yet it’s still hard to understand until you put your boots on the ground and watch the oil being drilled, pumped, and trucked to rail stations, 24-7, as it’s moved out of the region.
From underneath the Howard Street Bridge, I often hear the squeak of CSX trains traveling underground on my light rail ride home. In Baltimore, we expect increases in the volume of petroleum-by-rail destined for the port terminal. The oil industry desires Baltimore as a destination so they can ship crude oil by tanker to refineries along the East Coast. And, if Congress lifts the oil export ban, these shipments will go worldwide. Targa Resources, a Texas-based company, recently filed a permit to construct a crude oil shipping facility at the Fairfield peninsula in South Baltimore.