Monday, March 07, 2011

The Power Fossil Fuel Industries Have Over Public Heath & Safety

By Theodora Filis

The fossil fuel industry uses their power to control public health and safety agencies as documented health issues continue to surface. The gas industry has began a powerful assault against anyone who speaks out on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the threat to public health and the environment. Politics is playing a significant role in the EPA's failure to hold the gas industry accountable for its damage to water supplies and public health throughout individual states.

For over seven years, environmental and public health advocates have called for full product disclosure of drilling and fracking chemicals. No one has any idea what is in those drums or totes. What we do know is that out of 944 chemicals injected underground, 30-70 percent of that contaminated water can come back up to the surface. We don't know how much stays underground – how much comes back up – or the long term effects of materials that could appear later in our rivers, streams, well sites and drinking water.

What most people don't realize is that gas doesn't come up out of the ground dry, it comes up wet. So the water taken off of the gas is not clean, and the water coming back up from fracturing is filled with unknown and hazardous chemicals.

After a nurse became critically ill while attending to a laborer involved in a fracking accident, and the attending physicians could not find out what she was exposed to, the urgency for full disclosure became evident.

In 2008 Colorado passed a rule (the first of its kind) that upon request through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, operators must disclose product ingredients to victims or their physicians in case of an accident. Unfortunately, the response to such a request took several days, long after it was of any help for emergency diagnosis and treatment.

In 2010, Wyoming became the first state to require publicly available disclosure of chemicals in fracking products, including the volumes or quantity of chemicals used. Because of this requirement Wyoming is receiving requests for proprietary status which would prevent public disclosure of a number of fracking products.

The health effects on humans, animals and the environment are frightening. Bakken Watch keeps an eye on oil and natural gas development in North Dakota. Their Youtube video shows how citizens of North Dakota, their drinking water, and animals are being effected by fracking.

Fracking is destroying the once pristine North Dakota land, water, and air. Shocking video: made by Bakken Watch:

There is much more information that needs to be disclosed fully and publicly. Each drilling and fracturing event is custom-designed depending on the geology, depth and resources available. The chemicals and products used and the amounts or volumes used can differ from well to well. Complete records for each well must be kept for an accurate accounting of what is being introduced into watersheds, air, and soil.

It is time for those charged with protecting public health and the environment to demand full disclosure directly from the natural gas products industry. Additionally, responsible drilling and fracking companies should be insisting on safer products from their suppliers to protect the health of their employees and reduce their liability.

Most importantly, the industry needs to assure its drilling and fracking fluids and toxic byproducts are retained in closed-loop production systems that prevent the release of any toxic chemicals into the ambient environment.

Suggested Reading:
Summary is based on an analysis of the potential health effects of products and  chemicals usedduring natural gas operations:

Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations: