Friday, May 4, 2012

Poison Now, Disclose Later

Another day, another cave. The Obama Administration has just verified the unbelievable rumor that it would be granting a huge concession to the oil and gas industry -- instead of being required to disclose the chemicals used to hydrofrack new wells 30 days in advance, drillers will be able to blast the earth with all the cancer-causing chemicals they want without telling a soul what they are using. Our government trusts them to report back to the victims later. On a self-serving website called FracFocus.

Of course, this new rule applies only to 700 million acres of federal lands. So if you live near federally-owned property, tribal lands, national parks, national forests, national seashores, national monuments -- and your tap water suddenly smells bad, turns color or catches fire,  or your hair and teeth start falling out, or you think you feel faint quakey rumblings under your feet.... you might have been permanently fracked. But never fear.  Maybe next month, maybe next year and maybe after you're dead, the government will act in your best interest and let you know you have been bathing in benzene. And that it's good for your complexion.

Naturally, the Department of the Interior will be accepting "public comments" before actually implementing its pollution-friendly new rules. And it actually admits what I wrote the other day: that the self-serving FracFocus site is abysmally out of date and hard to use. It does bupkis to inform you how you are being affected by that eyesore of a gas well next door. The Bureau of Land Management, however, "understands that the database is in the process of being improved and will in the near future have enhanced search capabilities and allow for easier reporting of information." (italics mine.)

Reading between the lines of 80 pages of bureaucrat-ese, it does appear that the Interior Department will follow its long tradition of allowing energy companies to police themselves. The government will take their word for what they are doing and not necessarily verify any of it. We all know how well that laissez-faire policy worked out since the Deepwater Horizon explosion two years ago. No new oversight, no new laws, no criminal prosecutions. "The BLM will rely on the operator's certification that it has complied with all the laws and regulations that pertain to its operation."

The  government report blithely assumes that frackers will voluntarily reduce the amount of their chemicals and use safer formulae, knowing they'll have to eventually own up to Uncle Sam. Transparency after the fact is so beneficial to the public, too! (see page 38 of the report.) And the better-late-than-never disclosures will help the government respond to "incidents", such as those inevitable well poisonings. Cooperation from the industry will ensure that the government can stock up on gazillions of gallons of drinking water furnished at great public cost by Coca-Cola and other for-profit beverage providers, too. It is win-win-win all around for the Great Public Private Partnerships in the great nation of Homelandia.

This sudden and sharp about-face on strict fracking rules just gives lie to the usual political canard that "change takes time" and we all just have to be patient when it comes to a progressive tax system, an improved economy and the like. When corporations want something, they can usually get it in record time. The easing of fracking rules comes mere months after industry big shots met with the Obama Administration to complain about regulations costing them too much time and money. From the New York Times:

The weakening of the rule followed a series of meetings at the White House after the original regulation was proposed in February. Lobbyists representing oil industry trade associations and individual major producers like ExxonMobil, XTO Energy, Apache, Samson Resources and Anadarko Petroleum met with officials of the Office of Management and Budget, who reworked the rule to address industry concerns about overlapping state regulations and the cost of compliance.
President Obama has strongly endorsed the new production as a boon to the economy and energy security. And the president, facing re-election under intense criticism of his energy policies from Republicans and oil industry officials, has recently taken steps to ease government regulation of oil operations.
In its original proposal that oil companies disclose the chemicals they intended to use in drilling at least 30 days before starting a well, the Interior Department was seeking to address the concerns of landowners about potential pollution of groundwater.

Industry complained, Obama listened. Just weeks after announcing a task force to make life easier for Big Oil and Gas, his Administration has accommodated these very important constituents. Landowners and consumers of water be damned. Why, the EPA even arranged for the firing of one of its fracking inspectors who actually had the nerve to insult polluters while he was doing his job.

The gas and oil industry has declared itself well-pleased with its government puppets. You can bet it is smiling a big old corporate-person smile as it scores yet another victory in the War Against People.


Denis Neville said...

Yves Smith @ NakedCapitalism, “How Obama’s Early Career Success Was Built on Fronting for Chicago Real Estate and Finance,” directs us to a speech in 2008 by Robert Fitch that “puts Obama’s early career in a new perspective and explains the man we see now in the Oval Office: one who pretends to befriend ordinary people but sells them out again and again to wealthy, powerful interests – the banks, big Pharma and health insurers, and lately, the fracking-industrial complex.”

Robert Fitch, The Change They Believe In, Speech for Harlem Tenants Association, November 14, 2008

As Karen said, “you can bet it [gas and oil industry] is smiling a big old corporate-person smile as it scores yet another victory in the War Against People.

And, as Chris “Tingles” Matthews says, “Obama’s smile is worth five to ten points” on election day.

The “right honorable” president's smile is like the silver fittings of a coffin.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for the link, Denis. Someday the real Obama biography will be written, maybe someday his supporters will overcome their kool-aid addiction. (I predict by the middle of his second term at the very latest.) This man is a demagogue's demagogue. His genius is that he was able to subsume the entire Democratic party, already weakened and corrupted by Clintonism, into a corporatist hardcore right-wing faction. Even Nancy Pelosi is now open to cutting Social Security, thanks to the Obama Machine's power. I tend to agree with Matt Stoller's view that only a Romney presidency and a brutal, non-camouflaged war on humanity by the Norquistian GOP will bring people to their senses. When a Democratic president is unilaterally conducting world-wide assassinations and selling us all out to the highest bidder -- and NOBODY NOTICES OR CARES -- his loss come Election Day is sadly something I think I could live with.

Kat said...

I've been reading your fracking posts with horror.
Really, what is the point of disclosing at all when the rate of production on most wells declines so rapidly that they're out of commission and on to a new well in no time? Oh yeah, that is the point.
"energy independence"+"job creation"+an administration interested only in retaining power= we're fracked.

Denis Neville said...


Obama and his machine's propaganda power are indeed a sight to behold.

“Change we can believe in;" "Yes We Can;" "Forward."

“That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything.” - Noam Chomsky

“In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization - the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.” - Aldous Huxley, Propaganda in a Democratic Society

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state…State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.” - Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

Will it take a brutal, non-camouflaged war on humanity by the Norquistian GOP to bring people to their senses?

Noam Chomsky said in Manufacturing Consent, “At this stage in history one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy for the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely to impose necessary illusions to manipulate and deceive the "stupid majority" and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”

Jay - Ottawa said...

“Here’s the short version of humanity’s relationship with water, as delivered by hydrologist Jay Famiglietti in Jessica Yu’s compelling and often gorgeous documentary “Last Call at the Oasis”:

‘We’re screwed.’”

President Obama makes a big thing of showing he’s a caring father for his two daughters. He won’t be around fifty years from now, but they will. You have to wonder whether he’s lying to them, too.

Ecologists predict that in around fifty years the most impressive effects of climate change will hit the entire globe. There will be no place to hide from those effects. What’s to become of Obama’s daughters and the children of his daughters, not to mention billions of other children of today?

By being profligate with the world’s resources in order to satisfy short-term business interests and shortsighted consumers, isn’t Obama abandoning his daughters, no matter how privileged and protected, to the same fate that awaits the rest of the world’s 99%?

We shouldn’t be too hard on Obama; government leaders around the world are doing the same fracking thing, sacrificing the next generation to the present generation. Chris Hedges in his last essay on Truthdig said the irrational actions of governments and their people on environmental issues boils down to one explanation: insanity.

The Salon link, above, includes an astounding fact: only 1% of the world’s water is still potable. Is there any quicker, more lasting way than fracking to destroy what’s left?

The charge of insanity is appropriate. We ARE nuts – first, the president, ever smiling, wishing his kids well as he goes down to the Oval Office to sign off on trust-me fracking; and, next, we ourselves, ever passive, doing little to stop one irrational national act after another.

What will the world look like for the 100% in about fifty years? Take a look at the steaming slum dump described by Katherine Boo in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” Now imagine the world turned into that dump. By contaminating rivers and aquifers already under stress, this generation is handing the next a bucket of waste water.

Let’s hope the climate change deniers are correct. Otherwise, it’s a certainty: the next generation and many to follow are screwed.

Kat said...

Yesterday as I replied to this post I was about to write that our only hope seemed to be the cratering of natural gas prices. (Admittedly, not much of a hope.) Then I wondered if and how much gas was being sold on the world market. Then I saw this:

James F Traynor said...


The climate change deniers are not correct. I wish they
were but they're not. They just happen to be very well organized and the lack of scientific knowledge on the part of the general public is a great aid and comfort to both them and the people who sponsor their efforts.

Denis Neville said...

@ Jay

Our water hell (‘We’re screwed’) is the last call at the oasis.

Water contamination is a major factor of a dwindling global water supply. Fresh water is the most pressing global issue of the twenty-first century.

Why should we care?

“The biggest mistake in thinking about water has always been thinking about it as disconnected from everything else.” - Dr. Peter Gleick, International Water Expert

“A river is like a urinary tract.” Rivers are studied to learn about the land they drain in the same way urine is studied to assess our body’s health.

Alex Prud'Homme, author of The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century, says pollutants are starting to accumulate into a troublesome cocktail, the cumulative effects of which are not known. Pollution did not lessen despite the environmental activism of the 60s and 70s. Instead pollution has become more severe as legacy pollutants compound with new, more potent ones. One of his many warnings of the looming water crisis: intersex fish in Chesapeake Bay. The human endocrine system is very similar to fishes. Pharmaceutical contamination in the Chesapeake Bay has caused male bass there to grow eggs in their testes.

“Last Call at the Oasis,” opens in theaters this weekend. It is a must-see.

Will these warnings meet the same denials that climate change has met?

Hopefully, we will do something before the oasis runs dry. LOL.

Now is the time to panic!

Denis Neville said...

“An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.” - Thomas Jefferson

ProPublica reports “New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years.”

In the comments section, Michael S. Knapp, President, Knapp Acquisitions & Production, refutes the study, “This isn’t real science,” and argues that “we’ve been safely injecting contaminated water deep into the earth for decades with no ill effects because of it.”

Check out Knapp Acquisitions & Production PA Shale Gas Blog, an insider's perspective on the rapid development of the Marcellus Shale in Western Pennsylvania @


“WAR IS OVER. NATURAL GAS VICTORIOUS.” The environmentalist backlash is in its last throes. The few still out there trying to make a name for themselves have resorted to lying and distorting the facts on gas drilling. They are becoming more and more extreme (desperate) in their rhetoric in a last ditch effort to maintain relevance. The left and the right are wholeheartedly embracing natural gas as the fuel of the future. The extreme is no longer the mainstream. The battle is over. The war has been won. Here some highlights of the final nails being driven into the coffin:

“Scandal Embroiled EPA Region 6 Admin Resigns in Disgrace”
“He should have been FIRED, but I certainly welcome the long overdue resignation of EPA Region 6 Administrator Dr. Al Armendariz [who aimed to "Crucify O&G Industry Like Roman Soldiers"]. Hopefully EPA Chief Lisa Jackson will fill his position with a candidate whose master is truth, science and facts, who remains impartial and carries out his or her responsibilities with unyielding objectivity.”

“Tis best to weigh the enemy more mighty than he seems.” - William Shakespeare

Jay - Ottawa said...

Kat’s informative link – about the frackers’ plan to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), rather than stock pile it as cheap energy independence for the homeland -- let’s you in on a dirty little secret. Big Oil & Gas (BOG) intends to turn the US into the next Saudi Arabia. Fracked Gas, cooled into LNG for overseas transport, will replace Black Gold as the world’s leading energy source. And, as the industry keeps reminding us, natural gas is so abundant, so clean and so very much a part of our very own America the Beautiful.

After a series link hopping prompted by Kat’s link, I closed my pilgrimage through the land of fracktalk with this article from – where else –

“We are backing ourselves into rationality, but it’s only because of this incredible national blessing of cheap natural gas,” said John Rowe, who retired [in March 2012] as chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation…. On Thursday Rowe told about 50 people at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy that natural gas is the only rational fuel for new energy plants and that it can replace archaic coal plants for relatively little expense…. This is a blessing for society, but it’s a whole new challenge for the energy industry.”

So, rational people should stop fretting about the dark side of fracking and count their blessings. While we’re giving thanks, BOG will tend to the challenges of getting natural gas from shale, as distinct from old-fashioned oil wells.

Now a pop quiz to see how well you stand up to industry propaganda. View the following 8-minute video from the Center for LNG. The captain sailing a freshly painted LNG tanker is outfitted in a crisp white shirt. The pipes of refineries gleam in the sunlight. An executive drinks water from a beaker topped off with LNG ice cubes. Everybody and everything is so spanking clean.

Short essay question: What’s omitted from the pitch? Hint: in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the site, type in ‘hydraulic fracturing’ or ‘fracking.’ And the Center for LNG comes up with _________ ?

Occupy. And try to stay upwind.

Valerie said...

We oversold all our oil, so now we don't have enough for ourselves and have to go "shopping" for it in hostile places. Now we are going to do the same with natural gas. Only the pollution is far more dangerous than the localised pollution and ugliness of spent oil fields.

I am not surprised to have my suspicions confirmed that it is only a matter of time before the poisons pumped into the ground leech into water tables.

Of course, Obama, once again is proving himself to be right in line with the Republicans and big corporations. What a horrible person!

What I can't get is WHY are people still supporting him and buying into his campaign rhetoric. He has had four years to prove he is an advocate for Main Street and all he has done is show his advocacy for the 1%.

It is so depressing! Some days I can't bear to think about it!