Travis Dardar, an indigenous fisherman in Cameron, Louisiana, has a front-row view of the expansion of the liquified natural gas (LNG) industry’s export capacity on the Gulf Coast — and it isn’t pretty. “It disgusts me what man is doing to the planet,” Dardar told me as I photographed flares at the recently built Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility from his boat out in the Calcasieu Ship Channel, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. I met Travis and his wife Nicole Dardar on March 17, before attending an air quality permit hearing held by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) in Cameron for another proposed LNG export project by Commonwealth LNG, a Texas-based company. The couple wasn’t aware of the permit hearing for Commonwealth LNG’s new export terminal project until I mentioned it to them.
In her documentary “Hard Road of Hope,” independent filmmaker Eleanor Goldfield details the history and contemporary struggles of West Virginians living and dying in coal country. As part of our coverage commemorating the Battle of Blair Mountain centennial, we are screening “Hard Road of Hope” for a limited time on the TRNN YouTube channel (watch it now here). In this complementary interview, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez talks with Goldfield about the urgency of the issues detailed in her documentary, and about how the gas industry, which employs environmentally destructive practices like fracking, is picking up where the coal industry left off and continuing the exploitation of the people and resources of West Virginia. To see more of Goldfield’s work, visit https://artkillingapathy.com/.
Santa Fe, NM—WildEarth Guardians announced this week its intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to crack down on smog pollution in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico, where unchecked fracking is taking a dangerous toll on clean air. “Despite the Biden administration’s promises to put public health first, the oil and gas industry is getting a free ride to pollute the Permian Basin and undermine clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Environmental Protection Agency needs to stop dragging its feet and start helping people.” In the face of booming oil and gas extraction, levels of ground-level ozone–the key ingredient of smog–have violated federal health standards in southeastern New Mexico.
A new study correlates poorer surface water quality with nearby hydraulic fracturing but finds that the impacts aren’t major enough to be considered harmful by federal regulators. However, the researchers noted they weren’t able to study “potentially more dangerous” substances related to fracking because of a lack of data. While some published studies have already linked groundwater contamination with hydraulic fracking activity, one of the researchers behind the study, Christian Leuz of the University of Chicago, said through a press release that their work was the “first large-sample evidence showing that hydraulic fracturing is related to the quality of nearby surface waters for several U.S. shales.” The study, published in the journal Science, found “small but consistent” increases in the concentration of nonbiodegradable salts in watersheds where new hydraulic fracturing activities were taking place.
For over a month, noxious wastewater has been leaching across the ground on Ashley Watt’s family ranch in the Permian Basin in West Texas where she lives and raises cattle. It started in mid-June, when a well Chevron Corps drilled in the 1960s (and plugged with cement in the 1990s before abandoning it) burst open. The well spewed what Watt described on Twitter as “super concentrated brine and benzene” into her water supply, the Pecos River Basin alluvial aquifer. After a month on site, according to Watt, Chevron plugged the well on July 16, but it failed a pressure test and continued bubbling brine at the surface again just over an hour later. Two calves and four cows have died, as Bloomberg News reported, and the well continues to spray onto the sandy land, where the water table is just over 50 feet below ground.
This week two major publications were released that highlight public health impacts on people living next to oil and gas operations. The Environmental Health News released their investigation looking at how chemicals associated with oil and gas are present at levels 90 times higher than the average in families’ urine, including samples from children. The New Yorker published “When the Kids Started Getting Sick” by Eliza Griswold, a deep dive on the increase in rare bone cancers in the region. These articles highlight the reality of so many in our communities, and because they reflect that lived reality, they hit home. For that reason, this blog goes a bit beyond simply providing information.
"While financial analysts, policymakers, and massive corporations squabble over the finer points of the fracking debate, families living amidst the wells day in and day out live in constant fear about what the industry might cost them—if they had another child, would they need to worry about birth defects? Are these exposures increasing their kids' cancer risk? Would it be safer to move to a place far away from all of this, even if it would also mean being far from their extended families, friends, and communities? And even if they could move, how far would they have to go to feel safe?" Those are just some of the questions facing the western Pennsylvania families featured in a report published Monday by Environmental Health News (EHN), a publication of the nonprofit Environmental Health Sciences. Five families from the region participated in a pilot study on the chemicals commonly found in emissions from fracking sites.
Today, Governor Tom Wolf voted with the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin and to remove from consideration regulations that would have allowed the transfer of water from the basin to fracking operations elsewhere and the importing of fracking wastewater for treatment, processing, storage, or disposal. We congratulate our allies who have fought for this ban for 11 years and worked to stop the additional regulations proposed in 2017. The reasons cited for today’s decision include the rapidly growing body of peer-reviewed science on the adverse impacts of shale gas development and evidence of the harms done in areas outside the basin for more than a decade.
Former EPA chief Gina McCarthy has reportedly been picked as Biden’s domestic climate policy chief. That concerns activists in Flint, Michigan, who say that she failed to address the Flint water crisis. Karen Weaver, the former mayor of Flint, said that she was disappointed with the choice. “I hope she does better with climate control than she did with Flint,” she told MLive-The Flint Journal. On Thursday, nine people, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, were charged over the crisis. Nick Lyon, Snyder’s health director, and Dr. Eden Wells, Snyder’s chief medical executive, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty.
If all had gone according to plan, the Constitution pipeline would be carrying fracked gas 124 miles from the shale gas fields of Pennsylvania through streams, wetlands, and backyards across the Southern Tier of New York until west of Albany. There it would join two existing pipelines, one that extends into New England and the other to the Ontario border as part of a vast network that moves fracked gas throughout the northeastern United States and Canada. For a while, everything unfolded as expected. When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in 2014, the U.S. was in the midst of a fracking boom that would make it the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil.
Water is Life – it is where we come from, who we are (both in a base physical sense and philosophically as fluid beings in space and time), how we and the ecosystems we depend on survive. And therefore, it is also of prime interest to a capitalist system desperate to commodify everything and everyone. Water is literally a traded commodity on the stock market , perhaps the most prime example of how our system treats finite entities like water as if they were infinitely marketable while treating infinite 1s and 0s on a screen as if they were essential to our survival as a species.
Wind howls in my ears. My fingers are numb. It’s midnight and I’m on top of Pink Mountain, near Mile 147 of the Alaska Highway in northeastern British Columbia. As I look out into the night, dozens of gas plants light up the horizon. This is fracking country. For two weeks, I’m driving the back roads of this sparse corner of the province to gather images of the destruction gas development has wrought here. It involves long periods of boredom punctuated by jaw-dropping moments where I curse aloud to no one in particular.
Scotland - Climate activists have blocked the gates of the Ineos refinery at Grangemouth with boats in a protest against pollution. Extinction Rebellion Scotland claims Ineos is Scotland’s biggest climate polluter and is staging the blockade as part of a programme of action. Small groups of no more than six people have locked themselves together at the gates and aim to remain there all day. Two boats are being used to block the entrances to the refinery and the headquarters.
It was a shock to the system. That’s how EQT President and CEO Toby Rice described the impact of the July cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Rice made the allusion during EQT’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday while reporting talks with four or five other unnamed companies to offload some or all of EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipeline capacity. Environmentalists hope Mountain Valley is headed for the same fate as Atlantic Coast and view the natural gas industry’s recent slide as evidence the market might be on their side.
The East Pittsburgh Zoning and Hearing Board announced this evening that it was rejecting a permit appeal from Merrion Oil & Gas, the company seeking to drill a fracking well at the US Steel plant. The decision (a 3-2 vote) likely marks the final word on a well project that drew intense community opposition, led by groups like North Braddock Residents For Our Future. The well has long been championed by Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. “Communities that have been hard hit by fossil fuel pollution in our state have been raising hell to stop projects like this fracking well...