Some of the most heavily fracked parts of the US have experienced an unprecedented wave of earthquakes in recent years even though they’ve long been considered geologically stable. But the oil and gas industry is quick to reject any suggestion that fracking is to blame.
“Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S.,” the USGS said in a press release.
Several scientists and seismologists with the USGS, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published a paper in the journal Science that calls for greater transparency from the oil and gas industry, as well as collaboration between industry, government, and the public, in order to mitigate the impacts of these “human-induced earthquakes.”
There were more earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher in Oklahoma last year than in California. Several were of a magnitude greater than 5 and caused considerable damage.
The problem has become so prevalent that Oklahomans have started seeking earthquake insurance, which insurers used to dismiss with a laugh. But even as seismic activity increased since the rise of fracking in 2008, the industry and Oklahoma regulators took no meaningful action to protect residents, which is no surprise given how integral the oil and gas industry is to Oklahoma’s economy.
Workers at Shell and Motiva refineries in Norco, Louisiana, about 30 miles west of New Orleans, have joined the growing national United Steelworkers Union (USW) strike. In total, 15 facilities are now striking, making this the largest refinery strike since 1980.
On the second night of the strike in Norco, a giant flare at the Shell refinery illuminated the workers on the picket line, serving as a reminder of the dangers that come with working at refineries.
“There are a lot of hazards out here,” Bryan Shelton, a media liaison for the union, said. “If you have that much hydrocarbon in one area, you have a chance for a lot of things to go wrong, so if you have someone working too many hours that is a dangerous thing.”
The aerospace engineer working at the the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics was caught out when telling his fossil fuel industry funders that his research papers and U.S. Senate evidence were “deliverables”.
As the collapse of oil prices threatens North Dakota's shale drilling rush, state regulators are considering a move they say could save the oil industry millions of dollars: weakening the state's laws on disposing of radioactive waste.
The move has been the subject of an intensive lobbying effort by drillers, who produce up to 75 tons per day of waste currently considered too hazardous to dispose of in the state.
For every truckload of that waste, drillers could save at least $10,000 in hauling costs, they argue. State regulators calculate that by raising the radioactive waste threshold ten-fold, the industry would shave off roughly $120 million in costs per year.
But many who live in the area say they fear the long-term consequences of loosened disposal rules combined with the state's poor track record on preventing illegal dumping.
“We don't want to have when this oil and coal is gone, to be nothing left here, a wasteland, and I'm afraid that's what might happen,” farmer Gene Wirtz of Underwood, NDtold KNX News, a local TV station. “Any amount of radiation beyond what you're already getting is not a good thing.”
Environmental groups have also objected that the rule change would put private companies' profits before public health.
“The only reason we're doing this today is to cut the oil industry's costs,” Darrell Dorgan, spokesman for the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition, which opposes the move, told Reuters.
The story has now been covered by the Globe and Mail, the CBC and the Canadian Press, the issue was raised in the House of Commons this week and the president of Kinder Morgan and the chair of the National Energy Board (NEB) have been forced to respond.
Kinder Morgan and the NEB angered the B.C. government in January after ruling the company could keep spill response plans for the proposed oilsands pipeline secret due to “security concerns.”
This week Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson defended the company’s actions, saying the NEB did not demand disclosure of the plans.
“We in no way want to have this perceived lack of transparency around our emergency response plans as any indication of us wanting to hide anything or keep anything a secret,” Anderson said.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.