This post is for the community of Fox Creek, Alberta
What Drilling (and Fracking) Is Doing to Texas Water, Which you’re not supposed to know about because…privacy? by Charles P. Pierce, May 31, 2016, Esquire
Last month, The El Paso Times got itself a regular scoop when it published some photographs taken by the Texas Civil Air Patrol, which was out surveying damage caused by some recent flooding. The aerial shots showed massive amounts of chemicals rushing into rivers and creeks from inundated oil wells and fracking sites, yet another benefit of the business-friendly environment characteristic of the modern petro-state.
Most recently, rainbow sheens and caramel plumes can be seen radiating from tipped tanks and flooded production pads during the March flood of the Sabine River, which forms much of the state’s boundary with Louisiana. Similar scenes are visible in photos from last year’s floods of the Trinity, Red, and Colorado rivers… It’s hard to draw definite conclusions simply by looking at photographs, but after reviewing a few, one expert said the spills could be deadly. “That’s a potential disaster,” said Walter Tsou, a physician and past president of the American Public Health Association. He published an article about the possible risks posed by fracking fluids on the website of the Environmental Health Policy Institute, an arm of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility. “I’m sure it will get into the groundwater and streams and creeks,” Tsou said of photos depicting oil plumes and inundated wastewater ponds. “In other areas, cattle that drank the fracking fluid actually died an hour after drinking it. There are potential carcinogens that can lead to leukemia, brain cancer and other endocrine disruptors that can affect premature births. So it is not good to drink fracked wastewater.”
Well, I wouldn’t think so.
Naturally, the Times kept an eye on this story and, last week, it discovered that the photographs had disappeared from the website at the University of Texas where the newspaper had found them. The editorial board found this to be a very curious development.
State officials ordered the photos removed from a website operated by the University of Texas at Austin. The photos, which weren’t generally known to the public until the Times’ story, showed potential environmental damage caused by flooding in oil drilling areas, including fracking sites. The photos provided useful information, particularly to people who live in or near the affected watersheds. But a state official said the photos were meant to be used by emergency management personnel in real-time settings.
OK, here’s the thing. If I have a well, and a flood comes along, and I see from an aerial photograph that a multicolored chemical frappe is coming my way, that to me is very much a “real-time setting.” However, in Texas, I would apparently be wrong.
“In consultation with UT staff, the photos have been removed from the public domain, as they are not vetted for privacy concerns or related issues in real-time when uploaded during an emergency,” Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said. “Emergency officials will continue to have access to the photos for disaster-related and the public and media may still request access to the photos through the Public Information Act.”
Privacy concerns? The pictures were taken from goddamn airplanes, and not from U2s, either. Whose privacy are we so concerned about? (I know! I know! Call on me.) [Emphasis added]
Flooding flushes oil, fracking chemicals into Texas rivers by Associated Press, April 30, 2016, Statesman
EL PASO — Recent Texas floods have inundated oil wells and fracking sites, flushing oil and fracking chemicals into rivers.
State emergency officials have taken dozens of photos that show sheens and plumes spreading from tipped tanks and flooded production sites during Sabine River flooding in March. Photos showed similar scenes in last year’s floods of the Trinity, Red and Colorado rivers.
“That’s a potential disaster,” Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association, told the El Paso Times. “Cattle that drank the fracking fluid actually died an hour after drinking it. There are potential carcinogens that can lead to leukemia, brain cancer and other endocrine disruptors that can affect premature births.”
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling, said it has responded effectively to such incidents. “I’m confident that once the agency is notified [Far too late], we’re taking appropriate measures,” spokesman Rich Parsons said.
State management emergency officials mobilize the Civil Air Patrol to photograph potential spills and leaks, and the commission responds quickly to reports of spills or other releases, spokeswoman Ramona Nye said. “If a release or spill is identified, the agency dispatches an inspector to investigate. Alleged violations are documented and appropriate action is taken based on the nature of the alleged violation,” she said.
Critics worry that the commission is soft on holding the oil and gas industry responsible for such incidents, since — according to one watchdog group’s accounting — commissioners receive more than half of their campaign contributions from that sector. However, Nye insists that spill prevention is the commission’s top priority [The photos below prove the commission’s spill prevention is a complete failure], a statement echoed by Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
“Oil and natural gas companies utilize the latest technologies to establish and maintain safe operations in any weather condition,” [In promises & lies only?] Staples, a former Texas agriculture commissioner, wrote in an email to the Times. “The Railroad Commission provides direction and oversight in the unlikely event that an environmental cleanup project is necessary. Operators who do not comply with regulations or remediation directives should face enforcement and can lose their permit to operate in Texas.”
[Regulator Reality Check:
End Regulator Reality Check]
However, with some climatologists expecting storms to become more intense in the future, it’s critical to strengthen measures to prevent such flood-related runoff, said Ken Kramer, water resources chairman of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“We just know they’re going to recur all the time,” he said. [Emphasis added]
Photos: Floodwaters in Texas overwhelm oil wells, fracking sites by USA Today, April 29, 2016
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