Tag Archives: Oil Shale

‘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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‘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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Climate Expert Says UN Emissions Report Makes Clear Only Solution Is to ‘Cut Off Supply of Fossil Fuels at Their Source’

“Climate policy proposals that do not squarely confront the issue of supply are not making a serious attempt to avert catastrophe.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-26-2019

“The urgent, necessary solution is to stop the supply of fossil fuels by banning fracking and all other forms of fossil fuel drilling,” says climate campaigner Mitch Jones. (Photo: CGP Grey/Flickr/cc)

An annual United Nations report published Tuesday on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions shows the “urgent need for supply-side action” to combat the climate emergency, according to the advocacy group Food & Water Action.

Mitch Jones, director of Food & Water Action’s Climate & Energy Program, released a statement responding to the new Emissions Gap report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), which warned that global temperatures are on track to rise as much as 3.9°C by the end of the century. Continue reading

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‘We Need to Ban Fracking’: New Analysis of 1,500 Scientific Studies Details Threat to Health and Climate

“The data show that fracking impairs the health of people who live nearby, especially pregnant women, and swings a wrecking ball at the climate.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-19-2019

“There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends,” according to a new analysis. (Photo: Wendy Shattil/Bob Rozinksi/Creative Commons)

A comprehensive analysis of nearly 1,500 scientific studies, government reports, and media stories on the consequences of fracking released Wednesday found that the evidence overwhelmingly shows the drilling method poses a profound threat to public health and the climate.

The sixth edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (the Compendium), published by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, found that “90.3 percent of all original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking found a positive association with harm or potential harm.” Continue reading

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Trump to Add ‘Tasteless Insult to Injury’ by Promoting Fossil Fuel Deregulation in Shadow of Fatal Chemical Fire

“It’s no surprise that Trump is once again taking an action championed by climate deniers and fossil fuel companies.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-8-2019

A chemical plant fire at 16503 Ramsey Road in Crosby, Texas on Tuesday, April 2. (Photo: Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office)

Just a week after a chemical plant explosion killed one worker and spewed thousands of pounds of dangerous pollutants into the air in Crosby, Texas, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to visit that city Wednesday to sign executive orders to speed up approval of pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.

“In coming to the location of a deadly fossil fuel-related explosion to sign an order that would gut states’ power to protect residents from the hazards of oil and gas pipelines, Trump is adding tasteless insult to the injury he is inflicting on our planet,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement. Continue reading

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Leaked Audio Exposes Oil & Gas Execs Laughing With Joy Over Cozy Access to Trump Officials

“It’s really a new world for us and very, very helpful,” said powerful fossil fuel lobby group’s CEO during closed-door meeting

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-23-2019

David Bernhardt. Photo: Citizen Truth

A newly-leaked audio recording reveals that oil and gas executives in a private meeting were “giddy” with laughter in the summer of 2017 as they rejoiced over the “unprecedented access” they were being given to the highest levels of the Trump administration, boasting about their ability to have closed-door meetings with top officials and the ascendance of their own industry colleagues to some of the most powerful seats of government.

Among the topics in the recording, reports Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting—which was provided the audio—the oil and gas executives who belong to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) “are heard discussing David Bernhardt, now deputy secretary of the Interior and a former industry lobbyist.” Notably, Bernhardt—described by the executives in the recording as a close friend and industry operative—has now been nominated by President Trump to be the next Secretary of Interior, with his confirmation hearings scheduled for next week. Continue reading

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Report Exposes ‘Devastating’ Economic, Public Health, and Environmental Impacts of Trump’s Industry Giveaways

Analysis backs up lawsuits filed by state attorneys general against the administration’s repeals of regulations that target polluting industries

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-5-2019

 

The Camp and Woolsey fires in California cost at least $9-13 billion in damage, according to a Christian Aid report . (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

A new study out Tuesday backs up a series of legal challenges launched by Democratic state attorneys general alarmed by President Donald Trump’s deregulatory rollbacks designed to benefit polluting industries at the expense of public health, the environment, and the economy.

Climate & Health Showdown in the Courts: State Attorneys General Prepare to Fight (pdf) was published by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law, which provides support to state attorneys general working to defend and promote clean energy, climate, and environmental policies. Continue reading

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Blow to ‘Powerful Corporate Interests’ as Federal Court Throws Out Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against DAPL Water Protectors

Greenpeace lawyer confident that decision will deter other companies “from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-15-2019

Krystal Two Bulls and other defendants celebrated on Thursday after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit targeting water protectors who organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). (Photo: EarthRights International/Twitter)

In a “landmark” ruling on Thursday, a federal court in North Dakota tossed out a “baseless” case against Greenpeace and other environmental and Indigenous activists who organized protests against the deeply controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which drew thousands of people to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016.

District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed (pdf) all claims against all defendants in a lawsuit brought by fossil fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which sought to hold the water protectors liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for millions of dollars in alleged damages

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As Planet Heats Further, Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is ‘Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe’

“Sleepwalking? Nah,” remarked Naomi Klein, decrying the “Davos Class” policies of global deregulation, privatization, unending consumption, and growth-worship. “Pretty sure your eyes were wide open.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-16-2019

Dusk, looking north at the chimney and main buildings of the Fawley Power Station. Photo: Jim Champion/CC

Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week—which convenes the world’s wealthiest and most powerful for a summit that’s been called both the “money Oscars” and a “threat to democracy”—the group published a report declaring, “Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.”

While WEF has made a habit of recognizing the threat posed by the human-made climate crisis in its Global Risks reports—for which it has garnered some praise—author and activist Naomi Klein was quick to challenge the narrative presented in the latest edition (pdf), pointing out that many of the polices pushed by the very people invited to the exclusive event have driven the global crisis. Continue reading

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‘Shameful Day for Canada’: First Nations Encampment Violently Raided, Land Protectors Arrested

“Is this a normal way to respond to Indigenous people who are peacefully protecting their drinking water from fracking pipelines?”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-8-2019

Reacting to footage of the “invasion” by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday, author and activist Naomi Klein said it was “a shameful day for Canada, which has marketed itself as a progressive leader on climate and Indigenous rights.” (Photo: Michael Toledano/@M_Tol)

More than 50 protests have been planned for across the globe on Tuesday in solidarity with a First Nations group fighting against the construction of TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, with the number of protests rising overnight after Canadian police broke down a checkpoint gate erected by Indigenous land protectors and arrested more than a dozen people.


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