Burned By Slow Government Response To A Polluter, Residents Mistrust Cleanup Efforts

When residents don’t trust the company who poisoned their water and soil, and they don’t trust the government agencies mandated to stop the company, they’ll either ignore everything and hope for the best, or they’ll take matters into their own hands.

Both reactions are in abundance in Vernon, California near the site of a now-shuttered battery recycling plant now owned by Exide Technologies. Exide and the plant’s previous owners knowingly leached lead and other carcinogens into the soil, air and water in surrounding residential neighborhoods, a problem made much worse by inadequate government oversight.

State regulators repeatedly warned Exide Technologies, which ran the Vernon battery smelting facility since 2000, and its previous owners that the plant was releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. Exide responded only by paying fines and continuing business as usual.

Exposed: Spectra-Funded Group Lobbied for FERC Commissioner's Reappointment, Then FERC Approved Spectra’s Gas Pipelines

A business advocacy group lobbied for the reappointment of a federal energy commissioner while one of its own members sought approval for several projects from the same federal regulator, a DeSmog investigation has found.

In the past three years, natural gas infrastructure giant Spectra Energy has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval for a number of projects in the US Northeast.

During this time, regional pro-business lobbying group the New England Council, of which Houston-based Spectra Energy is a member, lobbied President Barack Obama and the US Senate for the reappointment of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to a second term.

A DeSmog investigation has found other instances suggesting an ongoing and exclusive relationship between LaFleur, NEC, and lobbyists working for Spectra Energy.

The Crude Oil "Bomb Train" Story: Profits Over Safety

I would agree with the opponents. This is not about saving jobs…This is about profits. But gee, what is wrong with profits?”

Those were the words of San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioner Jim Irving, explaining why he was voting for a project to build a rail spur to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery so that the refinery can receive oil by rail

It is a safe bet that Jim Irving hasn’t been to Lac-Megantic, where almost three years ago a very profitable oil train derailed and exploded in the middle of downtown. The immediate damage was 47 lives lost, a massive oil spill, and the burning and contamination of the town center. 

Nearly three years later, the downtown has yet to be rebuilt. And as we reported on DeSmog, there were many reasons the Lac-Megantic accident occurred. Averting any one of them could have prevented the accident. All were the result of corporate cost-cutting that put profits ahead of safety.

Dear President Obama: Film Presses For Climate Action As Time Runs Out On Obama Term

Jon Bowermaster’s new film Dear President Obama is essentially an open letter to President Obama asking him to start taking climate change seriously and put an end to his “all of the above” energy policy. 

Throughout the film, the audience is reminded of just how difficult this will be to accomplish due to the state of politics and policy polarization in America. 

Gasland director Josh Fox is featured at various points in the film, and he gets to the heart of the matter in one of his comments saying, “We are not living in a democracy at the current time and the oil and gas industry has a lot to do with that.”

Later a woman from Pennsylvania reiterates this point saying, “It is our elected officials. They turned their backs on us. That is who I blame first. Because they allowed it.”

However, the most telling comment is from Rod from Longmont, Colorado, a farmer seen onscreen feeding his chickens when he says, “I’ve been told by my Congressman Jared Polis, he came out and…you know what he told me? It’s time to sell out.” 

Shell Oil Spill Cleanup Operation Ends As Voices Against New Gulf Drilling Grow Louder

Five days after Royal Dutch Shell reported an estimated 88,000 gallon crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico from its operations in the Glider field, the oil company and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to halt skimming operations used in the cleanup because they were no longer finding recoverable oil. 

Both entities stated that no environmental damage has been reported, but independent monitors from Greenpeace, Vanishing Earth and Wings Of Care question whether the size and potential impact of the spill are being downplayed. 

News of Shell’s oil spill 90 miles south of Louisiana’s Timbalier Island came the day before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted a final week of public meetings on the Gulf Coast to give the public a chance to comment on its Five Year Plan 2017-2022 oil leasing program. Its plan calls for lease sales of 47 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

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