A Trillion Toxic Gallons
Updated: Mar 11
Fossil Fuels are a hot topic these days. A lot of people link them to climate change, others argue that they have nothing to do with global warming, but wherever you stand on that subject, there is a darker, very invisible side to fossil fuels and chemical toxicity that sits right under your nose or even inside of you. That's what makes them far more dangerous because it's an "enemy" you can't see or even know of.
The amount of articles circulating around this issue in the last few weeks startled me, hence I decided to blog about it because the broader population is unaware. That is on purpose, the information has been covered up for a long time because the fossil fuel industry wouldn't have been able to boom as much as it has.
When it comes to environmentalism or environmental sustainability, people still tend to think it is some elusive external thing that happens in the Amazon or Australia somewhere. You might live in an area like California where there has been a drought and wildfires for years. You get used to it because fires happen every year, even if lately more frequently and devastating. Still it seems kind of normal, meaning it doesn't feel like a pressing situation because unless you live in the burning area, you are not really effected by it. The air pollution might be a little worse than usual and your allergies will be through the roof for a few days, but other than that it's all pretty 'normal'.
A lot of people live in the illusion that environmental issues don't effect them directly or as if they don't exist. It’s not just about saving a rain forest far away in the tropics or saving endangered exotic species somewhere. The reality is, we live in a world with increased chemical toxicity in the environment and food products. It's EVERYWHERE, it's right here right now, wherever you are.
An article in The Guardian reports:
Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is responsible for more than 4m premature deaths around the world each year and costs the global economy about $8bn a day, according to a study. The report, from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, found that burning gas, coal and oil causes three times the number of deaths as road traffic accidents globally.
Children, especially those living in low-income countries, are particularly affected with an estimated 40,000 dying each year before they reach their fifth birthday because of exposure to particulate pollution from fossil fuels.
“We need to take into account the real cost of fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet, but also for our health.” said Minwoo Son, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
As of 2016, fracking accounted for more than two-thirds of all new U.S. wells, according to the Energy Information Administration. There are about 1 million active oil-and-gas wells, across 33 states, with some of the biggest growth happening in the most radioactive formation — the Marcellus. And some regulations have only gotten weaker.
“Legislators have laid out a careful set of exemptions that allow this industry to exist,” says Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Environmental Network, an Ohio community-organizing group. “There is no protection for citizens at all — nothing.”
In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees.
There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not have statutory authority to regulate naturally occurring radioactive material,” says NRC spokesman David McIntyre. The agency has authority over “materials stemming from the nuclear fuel cycle,” he says, adding, “My understanding is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal regulator for…oil-and-gas wastes.”
“There is no one federal agency that specifically regulates the radioactivity brought to the surface by oil-and-gas development,” an EPA representative says. In fact, thanks to a single exemption the industry received from the EPA in 1980, the streams of waste generated at oil-and-gas wells — all of which could be radioactive and hazardous to humans — are not required to be handled as hazardous waste.
Effectively, the EPA determined that in order for oil-and-gas to flourish, its hazardous waste should not be defined as hazardous.
Desmog UK writes:
Oil and gas wells pump out nearly a trillion gallons of wastewater a year, Rolling Stone reported. That’s literally a river of waste — enough to replace all the water flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico for more than two and a half days.
Much of that wastewater, often referred to by the industry as “brine,” carries high levels, not of familiar table salt, but of corrosive salts found deep below the Earth’s surface, as well as toxic compounds and carcinogens.
That water can also carry serious amounts of radioactive materials. Back in April last year, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency decided it was “not necessary” to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation’s 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency’s own research has warned it may pose risks to the country's drinking water supplies.
Yale Environment 360 writes:
Ten oil refineries in the United States are emitting levels of the pollutant benzene well above the federal government’s “action level” limit, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental watchdog group. Long-term exposure to benzene can cause blood disorders and leukemia, Reuters reported.
Oil refineries with high levels of benzene are not technically breaking the law. But these facilities are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor the pollutant and take action if levels exceed EPA’s limit of 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over a year. Benzene is a colorless or light yellow chemical that evaporates from gasoline and oil. Exposure to it can cause vomiting, headaches, anemia, and an increased risk of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
And when it comes to California, an article, a partnership between the Center for Public Integrity and the Los Angeles Times, states:
Across much of California, fossil fuel companies are leaving thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially threatening the health of people living nearby and handing taxpayers a multibillion-dollar bill for the environmental cleanup.
From Kern County to Los Angeles, companies haven’t set aside anywhere near enough money to ensure these drilling sites are cleaned up and made safe for future generations, according to a months-long data analysis and investigation by the Los Angeles Times and the Center for Public Integrity.
This is a map of California’s 70,000 active or 35,000 idle wells. If you go to this article, scroll down until you see this map, you can check your zip code if you live anywhere near. The map is much larger than this picture, so if you don't see your area here, I suggest you check it out.
That being all said, there is a far more dangerous side to fossil fuels that needs to be addressed because it is a health hazard, climate change aside. Environmental pollution is a massive stressor for our systems that effect us physically, mentally, emotionally and causes an epidemic of diseases world-wide. It kills people! The big corporation mentality "to maximize short term profits" at all cost can't be justified for that. We need to do something about it. This is truly not acceptable nor sustainable.
Awareness is the first step and the more this information spreads, legislators in charge can't fake reports anymore and need to respond accordingly. If you are letting the cat out of the bag, there is no more glossing over. BAM!
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