Tag Archives: Fracking

‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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House Passes Resolution to Reverse ‘Reckless’ Trump-Era Methane Rule

“Biden should direct the EPA to use the full power of the Clean Air Act to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas by 65% by 2025,” said one advocate.

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-25-2021

Gas well flaring in the Marcelus Shale. Screenshot: YouTube

Progressive advocates celebrated the U.S. House’s passage Friday of a resolution to reinstate federal regulations on methane pollution, while also emphasizing that confronting the climate emergency requires implementing stronger safeguards.

The resolution reversed the Trump administration’s rollback last August of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules governing oil and gas companies’ emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. Continue reading

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Groups Provide Biden With Draft Climate Emergency Order to Help Put Out ‘Fire Fanned by Trump’

The president-elect “must take bold action the moment he steps into the Oval Office, without punting to a dysfunctional Congress.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-16-2020

Image by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay

President-elect Joe Biden must swiftly move once in office to “avert the climate emergency” with a series of actions to ensure the nation invests in “a just, clean, distributed, and democratic energy system that works for all.”

That’s the demand Wednesday from over 380 groups who’ve sent Biden a draft executive order (pdf) that details how, exercising executive authority, he can rein in greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard the environment while boosting jobs and community wellbeing. Continue reading

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‘Can Anybody Still Deny That We Are Facing a Dramatic Emergency?’ Asks UN Chief at Climate Summit

“If we don’t change course,” he warned, “we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-12-2020

The Orroral Valley Fire viewed from Tuggeranong, Australia on the evening of January 20, 2020. Photo: Nick-D/CC

World leaders aren’t doing enough to address the human-caused climate crisis.

That seemed to be the main message of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ speech on Saturday at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, hosted by the U.N., the United Kingdom, and France in partnership with Chile and Italy to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement.

“Paris promised to limit temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. But the commitments made in Paris were far from enough to get there. And even those commitments are not being met,” Guterres said. “Carbon dioxide levels are at record highs. Today, we are 1.2 degrees hotter than before the industrial revolution. If we don’t change course, we may be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than 3 degrees this century.” Continue reading

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Indigenous Leaders Furious After EPA Grants Oklahoma Control Over Sovereign Tribal Lands

“We must fight back against this underhanded ruling,” said one Indigenous leader. “In the courts, on the frontlines and in the international courts, life itself is at stake.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-5-2020

The Oklahoma State Capitol is the only one in the nation containing a working oil rig on its grounds. (Photo: duggar11/Flickr cc)

In a little-noticed development last week that drew ire after being reported Monday, the Trump administration’s EPA granted the state of Oklahoma wide-ranging environmental regulatory control on nearly all tribal lands in the state, stripping dozens of tribes of their sovereignty over critical environmental issues.

The Young Turks which first reported the news, obtained a copy of an October 1 letter (pdf) from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler granting a request by Republican Gov. J. Kevin Stitt for control of environmental regulations on tribal land on a wide range of issues, including: Continue reading

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Following Outrage, Trump Pulls Nomination of “Unapologetic Racist’ William Perry Pendley to Oversee Nation’s Public Lands

“Pendley never should have been nominated, and the fact that he was shows you what you need to know about this administration’s conservation priorities.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-15-2020

BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley rides a bike in Moab, Utah on October 25, 2019. (Photo: Eric Coulter, BLM, CC BY 2.0)

Environmental campaigners on Saturday welcomed news that President Donald Trump withdrew his nomination of “pro-polluter” and “unapologetic racist” William Perry Pendley for director of the Bureau of Land Management, with groups saying he should no longer be allowed to continue in his role as unofficial head of the agency.

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As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs Donating to Trump ‘With Greater Zeal’ Than 2016

“We’ve seen a pretty huge transformation in Biden’s climate plan,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-3-2020

ExxonMobil facility near Chicago. (Photo: Richard Hurd, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.

The Houston Chronicle reported Monday that oil and gas executives “are writing checks to President Donald Trump with greater zeal than they did four years ago, as Biden campaigns on a climate plan that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by mid-century.” Continue reading

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‘The Public Has a Right to Know’: Fed Refuses to Release Documents on Fossil Fuel Industry’s Covid-19 Bailouts

“As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-9-2020

“The Federal Reserve was tasked with creating a massive program to protect workers’ livelihoods during an intense economic and public health crisis. We should, at the very least, expect transparency about how the program is structured,” said Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

The Federal Reserve has missed a deadline to release documents requested by environmental group Food & Water Action in May to reveal the extent to which the central bank has used one of its major Covid-19 lending programs to rescue the faltering oil and gas industry.

“The public has a right to know if the Fed created an oil and gas bailout at the behest of an industry that has wreaked havoc on our air, water, climate, and potentially the global financial system,” Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco said in a statement. “As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters.” Continue reading

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Ex-EPA Officials Mark 50th Earth Day With Scathing Snapshot of How Trump ‘Is Hurting People and the Natural World’

“Critical public health and worker protections are being rolled back solely to maximize corporate profits.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-22-2020

Demonstrators at an Earth Day 2017 event carry signs promoting science and challenging President Donald Trump’s agenda. (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)

An organization launched in 2017 by former staffers of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency marked the 50th annual Earth Day Wednesday by releasing a report about the efforts of President Donald Trump’s administration to gut regulations enacted under his predecessors to preserve public health and the planet.

“The actions by the Trump administration to undermine environmental and public health protections are not acceptable,” Michelle Roos, executive director of the Environmental Protection Network (EPN), said in a statement. “Fortunately, EPN members, EPA alumni with decades of expertise and experience, have volunteered their time to detail how this administration is hurting people and the natural world on which we all depend.” Continue reading

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‘Against Colonial Violence and Land Theft,’ Indigenous Activists and Allies Target Mining Industry Convention in Toronto

Demonstration held “in solidarity with every community that has found itself staring down the barrel of a gun for daring to oppose Canada’s ongoing colonial project through resource extraction.”

By for Common Dreams. Published 3-1-2020

“From coast to coast we are rising up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and against colonial violence and land theft,” said Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe Kwe Land Defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation and one of the organizers of Sunday’s demonstration. “It’s clear that Canada is a state built on the removal of Indigenous people for resource extraction.” (Photo: Mining Injustice Solidarity Network/@mininginjustice)

Hundreds of people led by Indigenous land defenders and a coalition of environmental groups worked to shut down a large mining industry convention in downtown Toronto on Sunday, blockading the entrances to the building where the meeting was taking place as they protested against “the extractive industry’s violence, ongoing colonization, and complete disregard for the future of life on this planet.”

Sunday’s action—aimed at the Prospectors and Developers of Association of Canada (PDAC)—is the latest solidarity demonstration aligned with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation nation that remains locked in a fierce battle with the Canadian government over the controversial “Coastal Gas Link” fracked gas pipeline through unceded territory in northern British Colombia.
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