Destroying Planet Earth-- For Quick Profits And Payoffs
Scariest report I read all week was by Michael Behar in Mother Jones: Fracking's Latest Scandal? Earthquake Swarms.Who pays for environmental cleanup-- the corporations who foul the air and water to make profits or the tax payers who have to deal with the consequences? The relationship between fracking and earthquakes brings that question to a whole new level. Behar reports how natural gas fracking violently woke up-- with devastating consequences-- a fault in Oklahoma that has been dead for 320 million years. Of course, when a Republican congressman on the House Science Committee asserts that the earth was created in exactly six 24 hour days 9 thousand years ago... well how do you persuade him that fracking-- which he loves-- is causing earthquakes in Oklahoma?
Between 1972 and 2008, the USGS recorded just a few earthquakes a year in Oklahoma. In 2008, there were more than a dozen; nearly 50 occurred in 2009. In 2010, the number exploded to more than 1,000. These so-called "earthquake swarms" are occurring in other places where the ground is not supposed to move. There have been abrupt upticks in both the size and frequency of quakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Texas. Scientists investigating these anomalies are coming to the same conclusion: The quakes are linked to injection wells. Into most of them goes wastewater from hydraulic fracking, while some, as those in Prague, are filled with leftover fluid from dewatering operations.Big Oil and Gas are frantic to deny any responsibility. Towards the end of his essay, Behar goes back to someone whose house was wrecked in a fracking-related quake. "My theory," he tells Behar, "is that even if God came down and said, 'You oil company guys are at fault,' they would still deny it." Instead the oil industry would continue paying off shady pastors, sleazy academics and sleazier and shadier politicians to cover up for them-- while they rake in billions of dollars.
The impact of fossil fuels is no secret, but until now the short list of dirty energy's villains never included water. Together, oil and gas extraction and production generate about 878 billion gallons of wastewater annually, roughly what tumbles over Niagara Falls every two weeks. More than a third is injected back into disposal wells. With natural gas production on the rise-- it has jumped 26 percent since 2007, chiefly because fracking now makes it economically viable to pursue gas trapped in shale deposits-- and unconventional practices such as dewatering ramping up domestic oil development, the wastewater deluge is expected to get worse. Operators are injecting more water than ever into drilling wells, while boring new wells to accommodate the overflow. Yet nobody really knows how all this water will impact faults, or just how big an earthquake it could spawn. In the West, small quakes don't often cause much damage because of stricter seismic regulations but also because the underground formations-- buckled, with younger rock-- absorb all but the biggest events. Induced quakes, however, are happening primarily in flatter states, amid more rigid rock, making them more destructive-- a stone makes a bigger splash when it's hurled into a glassy pond than a river of raging whitewater.
For its part, industry is doing its best to avoid discussing the issue publicly, even as its leading professional guild, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, recognized the matter was serious enough to call its first-ever meeting devoted to "injection induced seismicity." Held in September, the SPE's 115-member workshop sought to "better understand and mitigate potential risks." When I reached out to SPE coordinator Amy Chao, she told me, "I appreciate your interest but press is not allowed to attend in any fashion."
Last Friday John Hoeven (R-ND), one of those sleazier and shadier politicians, introduced an amendment to the Senate budget "to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to promote investment and job growth in United States manufacturing, oil and gas production, and refining sectors through the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline." It passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate 62-37, every Republican, obviously, voting for it, along with corrupt ConservaDems Max Baucus (MT), who was actually a cosponsor with Hoeven (and has taken $375,315 from Big Oil and Gas), Mark Begich (AK- $185,205), Michael Bennet (CO- $149,920), Tom Carper (DE- $88,060), Bob Casey (PA- $131,350), Chris Coons (DE), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kay Hagan (NC), Heidi Heitkamp (ND- $58,250), Tim Johnson (SD- $130,006), Mary Landrieu (LA- $967,474), Joe Manchin (WV- $253,400), Claire McCaskill (MO- $84,208), Bill Nelson (FL- $93,617), Mark Pryor (AR- $197,800), John Tester (MT-$58,366) and Mark Warner (VA- $82,700)... 17 of 'em. Sad day.
A week later, 3 of the corporate stooges tried wriggling out from under their votes by claiming it was just "budgetary housekeeping."
The amendment’s sponsors said it was a strong show of support for Keystone. But at least three senators who cast surprise “yes” votes-- and angered environmentalists-- have a different view of the amendment.The same environmental groups that are backing environmental champion Ed Markey in his Massachusetts Senate primary against corporate whore Stephen Lynch, are theatening primaries against Democrats who sell out to Big Oil over Keystone XL-- and they have an environment-friendly billionaire, Tom Steyer, backing them.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), through an aide, portrayed it as budgetary housekeeping.
“Sen. Carper continues to support letting the approval process by the Department of State and ultimately President Obama go forward,” said Carper spokesman Ian Sams in a statement.
“He voted for the amendment to give budgetary flexibility if the project is approved, allowing us to incorporate any economic benefits we might see from the pipeline into the budget baseline,” he said.
The office of his Delaware colleague, Sen. Chris Coons (D), explained his "yes" vote in similar terms on the senator’s blog Friday evening.
“Senator Coons voted for an amendment to the budget that takes into account the existing process, and the reality that if the Administration approves this project it will have a budgetary impact,” the blog post stated.
Another Democratic backer of the amendment, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), joined Carper and Coons in declining to cast the vote as an outright endorsement of Keystone.
“Senator Bennet believes the Keystone pipeline should go through the proper process and be judged on its merits,” said Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi.
But sponsors and many backers of the amendment made very clear that they saw the amendment as an outright referendum on whether Keystone should be approved by the Obama administration. Environmentalists certainly saw it that way, and are vowing to take action against the three senators.
“As Tom believes that climate is an issue of our times, both in terms of the economic impact on our country and what it will mean to our children-- with Keystone being the current front-lines of this policy fight-- he intends to evaluate races where climate is very much on the ballot in terms of the candidates in a particular race,” said Steyer spokesman Chris Lehane.Steyer has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats in recent years, though many of them have been anti-environmental fanatics and corporate whores-- Blue Dogs and New Dems recommended by the DCCC and DSCC. Apparently, he's getting better advise now and won't be throwing his money away on candidates who oppose what he stands for, like Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA), Rahm Emanuel (New Dem-IL), Mark Warner (VA) and Evan Bayh (IN).
Lehane said the Massachusetts race provides a model in terms of criteria, noting a “clear distinction on the issue” in an “important” race, and one that involves “being asked to come in by local people in the state or district.”