Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Insidious Side of Natural Gas


By Raging Yeti, Earth First! Durango

Despite the rhetoric of many mainstream environmental organizations and many “liberal environmentalists,” natural gas is not a clean energy, especially when the production process is considered in full.  Like most commodities generated in the global corporate capitalist culture, natural gas is consumed regularly without much knowledge of where it is produced, how it is produced, or the deleterious effects it has on local people and local environments.  Natural gas, like many commodities we consume, seems pleasantly ubiquitous, and without consequence.

In this short article, I will outline the insidious side of natural gas, leaving ample room for the reader to pursue this investigation further.  I will sketch out four themes subtitled below about each of which a book could be written.

Criminogenic Corporate Gas Producers

In the oil and gas industry corporate crime is rampant as it is in all corporate sectors.  In fact, corporate crime kills more people and costs taxpayers more money than all street-level crime combined.  What makes this fact so insidious is that convicted corporate criminals can go right on offending because, as Baron Thurlow so eloquently noted, “corporations have no soul to punish and no body to incarcerate.”  I would like to add to this observation that we have no valid legal system representing nonhuman and human life against the corporate murders of our planet.  This is why our planet needs engaged and enraged human agents.

As of 2009, the top ten US natural gas producers were: BP, Anadarko Petroleum, XTO Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, ConocoPhillips, Enccana Corp, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Williams Cos Inc. ExxonMobil has recently bought XTO energy, making it the largest producers of natural gas in the U.S.  If you were to Google any one of these companies with the terms “civil and criminal fines” behind their names, you would find numerous examples of chronic law breaking behavior ranging from insider trading, to bribery, to numerous different types of violations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, to violations of OHSA safety standards leading to worker injury and death.

Take, for example, BP, one of the greatest perpetrators of ecocide on the planet.  In October 2007, the Anchorage Daily News reported that BP agreed to pay $50 million for a felony Clean Air Act violation that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 people” in 2005 at a Texas refinery.  The paper also reported that BP paid “$303 million in connection with price manipulation of the lower 48 propane market” and another $20 million on a federal misdemeanor for spilling “an estimated 201,000 gallons of oil” in “the largest oil spill ever on the North Slope” in March 2006.  Add to BP’s criminal rap sheet the Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Horizon explosion, which took 11 human lives and created the largest marine oil spill in history, taking uncounted numbers of marine and avian life.  Only multinational corporations and nation-states can avoid incarceration for murder and ecocide.

Despite the multitude of malevolent crimes against landbases, humans and nonhuman life, multinational oil and gas producers are notorious for buying/owning our so-called federal and state representatives.   It is obvious we cannot trust multinational corporations to uphold the law, so why should we trust them to do anything, let alone produce safe and clean energy? In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton (a company with an incredible rap sheet), was instrumental in getting the oil and gas industry exempted from disclosure sections of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and numerous other exemptions from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, CERCLA (superfund), and the Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.  Other than just being a Dick, why would Dick seek exemptions from all these federal laws designed to protect our landbases?  What is the natural gas industry hiding from the public?

In a recent letter written to the EPA by three U.S. representatives, it was asserted that 12 “fracking companies injected more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into the ground in 19 states between 2005 and 2009.  And they did it without asking for or receiving permission from environmental regulators in those states.”  The concern over diesel fuel is that it contains benzene, a carcinogen having other deleterious health effects,  “which has been detected in water supplies near drilling facilities across the country.”  Federal legislators Waxman, Markey, and DeGette, allege that oil and gas companies broke the law by violating the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which states that hydraulic fracturing using diesel fuel is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The industry did not deny that the EPA had the authority to regulate diesel fuel in fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but claimed there are no rules in place to regulate the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.   Halliburton, BJ Services, and Schlumberger, the three largest drilling contractors, voluntarily agreed to stop using diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing in coalbed methane formations in 2003, and “the republican-led congress wrote in an exception, the so-called ‘Halliburton Loophole,’ into the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which stated that hydraulic fracturing could not be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”  However, “the use of diesel fuel for fracking would still qualify for regulation” under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Despite a “voluntary handshake agreement” stating the industry would not use diesel fuel and a legal exception, Halliburton used 7.2 million gallon of diesel fuel and BJ Services injected 11,555,538 gallon of diesel fuel into the ground between 2005 and 2009.  The gas industry is challenging the federal legislator’s claim that they violated the law.  Industry is arguing that there were no regulations in place despite their agreement to not use diesel fuel in fracking. In fact, 32 million gallons of diesel fuel was used in 19 states, of which half was injected in Texas, and one million gallons or more was used in the following states: Oklahoma 3.3 million gallons; North Dakota 3.1 million gallons; Louisiana 2.9 million gallons; Wyoming 2.9 million gallons; and Colorado 1.3 million gallons.  It is difficult to believe or construe the oil and gas industry as anything other than a sociopathic criminogenic operation.

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