(It’s exciting news that Democrat Cyndi Munson picked up the House District 85 seat in an election Tuesday. That northwest Oklahoma City district had been considered safely Republican for at east 50 years. Does her victory portend more Democratic victories in at least the local Oklahoma City political scene? I’ll discuss the issue here soon.)
It’s worth noting that all the grim and dire predictions made by environmentalists for years about the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom in this country are slowly getting recognized and sanctioned by the traditional corporate media and other businesses.
Recently, the credit rating services company, Standard and Poor’s issued an analysis showing how earthquakes caused by the injection well process used in fracking had created financial risks for home and property owners, mortgage lenders and insurance companies, and it also raised questions about liability.
Now the Associated Press has prepared an analysis of wastewater spills related to oil and gas drilling. The analysis found that at least 175 millions gallons of wastewater spilled in several states it studied from 2009 to 2014. The analysis points out that the gallon number might be too low because many spills are not officially noted.
Oklahoma is one of those states that reported spills. A StateImpact Oklahoma report on the analysis points out that Oklahoma ranks number six in the volume of wastewater spills in that time period. Wastewater from fracking is briny and laced with toxic chemicals.
In the fracking process, water mixed with chemicals is injected underground to create fissures in rock formations that release fossil fuels, such as natural gas. The wastewater from the process is then injected in underground disposal wells. Scientists believe it is the injection well process that has triggered the hundreds of earthquakes Oklahoma has experienced over the last four years or so.
The main concern with wastewater spills is that they can contaminate water used for drinking or agriculture. Environmentalists have been concerned about such contamination for years. Gasland, a documentary film created by Josh Fox about the relationship between fracking and water contamination, appeared in 2010.
The point is this: Environmentalists have argued for years that wastewater and other types of spills related to oil and gas drilling, along with the earthquake surge experienced here in Oklahoma and other areas, are damaging our eco-system and our homes and our quality of life. If oil and gas companies are left unchecked and unregulated, the damage could grow immense.
It’s an “I-told-you-so” moment, but that’s little consolation for all the years that regulators, financial services companies and the corporate media failed to act to expose the environmental problems surrounding fracking. Now that it’s become obvious, it’s safe to talk about it, but will there be any action?
The oil and gas industry has a powerful political lobby. Many GOP Oklahoma politicians, including Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Puitt and all three Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners have received campaign contributions from oil and gas interests. The Corporation Commission regulates the oil and gas in the state.
It’s obvious that large campaign and other donations to politicians influence this country’s political system, and it’s a problem that has only become worse nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that sanctioned unrestricted political expenditures by companies and organizations.
Although the Citizens United decision isn’t directly related to the environmental impact of fracking here in Oklahoma and elsewhere, it does carry symbolic value because of the time frame. It was just the following year-Nov. 5, 2011 to be exact-that a large 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Prague and scientists became concerned it was manmade. Their concerns have now been scientifically verified in study after study. Meanwhile, state leaders, the corporate media, especially The Oklahoman, and the oil and gas industry were slow to react.
The oil and gas industry is important to the state. For example, current lower worldwide oil prices, which mean less production, layoffs and state tax revenue, are going to hurt the economy here. State leaders have talked about diversifying the Oklahoma economy for years, but as the oil patch thrives or plummets so does everything else, or at least it still seems that way. So we’re still explicitly tied to oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma for our economic success, but now we have wastewater spills and earthquakes to worry about. It’s not a good situation, but it’s the new reality.
The larger and long-term answer to all this is easy: We need to increase our efforts to develop renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.