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Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Dan Bacher Recognized by Project Censored
Dan's pieces often appear here on the Sacramento Progressive Alliance.
EGN Contributor Dan Bacher's Reporting on Illegal Dumping of Fracking Wastewater is Project Censored's #2 Story of 2015
Written By EGN on Sunday, October 18, 2015 | 10:00
If being censored by corporate mainstream media were a badge of honor, Elk Grove News contributor and Fish Sniffer managing editor Dan Bacher would be highly decorated.
According to ProjectCensored.org, Bacher's 2014 story on the oil industry's illegal dumping of waste water into Central California's aquifers was the second most significant story not covered by mainstream media outlets. In their summary Project Censored noted "In May 2015, the Los Angeles Times ran a front-page feature on Central Valley crops irrigated with treated oil field water; however, the Los Angeles Times report made no mention of the Center for Biological Diversity’s findings regarding fracking wastewater contamination."
In addition, months earlier Bacher also reported on the cozy relationship between big oil and California state legislatures who received over $63 million to persuade them to continue fracking in the state. Connecting the dots, Bacher and Danny Shaw of Maplight.org documented that California state "senators who voted against the moratorium [SB 1132] received fourteen times more money in campaign contributions from the oil industry than those who voted for it.
Congratulations to Bacher for his tenacity in reporting on this important matter that the mainstream media has ignored. The entire list of the top 25 censored stories can be viewed here: http://www.projectcensored.org/
Massive dumping of wastewater into aquifers shows Big Oil's power in California
Oil industry illegally injected nearly 3 billion gallons of wastewater
by Dan Bacher
As the oil industry spent record amounts on lobbying in Sacramento and made record profits, documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater were illegally dumped into Central California aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation water for farms.
The documents also reveal that Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates, contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater, in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.
The illegal dumping took place in a state where Big Oil is the most powerful corporate lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization, alarming facts that the majority of the public and even many environmental activists are not aware of.
An analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry collectively spent over $63 million lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, topped the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.
The enormous influence that the oil lobby exerts over legislators, agency leaders, the Governor's Office and state and federal regulatory officials is the reason why Big Oil has been able to contaminate groundwater aquifers, rivers and ocean waters in California for decades with impunity. The contamination of aquifers becomes even more alarming when one considers that California is now reeling from a record drought where people, farms, fish and wildlife are suffering from extremely low conditions in reservoirs, rivers and streams.
"Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution," said Kretzmann. "Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”
"Thallium is an extremely toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison," according to a statement from the Center. "Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer. Some studies show that even low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight illness."
“Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands. “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”
The Center obtained a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board to the federal Environmental Protection Agency stating that the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board has confirmed that injection wells have been dumping oil industry waste into aquifers that are legally protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The State Water Board also concedes that another 19 wells may also have contaminated protected aquifers, and dozens more have been injecting waste into aquifers of unknown quality.
"The Central Valley Water Board tested eight water-supply wells out of more than 100 in the vicinity of these injection wells," according to the Center. "Arsenic, nitrate and thallium exceeded the maximum contaminant level in half the water samples."
The Vote No on Prop. 1 (Water Bond) Campaign responded to the Center's release of the documents by pointing out the irony of the fact that the same Legislature that nearly unanimously voted to put the water bond on the November ballot also rejected a fracking moratorium in California
"Prop 1 folks tout how it will provide funding to clean up groundwater in the SJ Valley," according to a statement from the campaign. "This is something we want to see too. But if fracking is unregulated and fracking wells are already leaking, shouldn't we work on the fracking moratorium first? Or at least simultaneously. And the legislators who passed Prop 1 voted against the fracking moratorium."
Restore the Delta responded to the report also: "At RTD, we have always known that water needs to be shared from the Delta- we argue that it must be at levels that are sustainable for the estuary. When we see items like this, however, it's hard to maintain that reasonable stance. We predicted a year ago that SJ Valley fracking sites would contaminate groundwater, making the region more dependent on water exports."
Long term threat posed by waste water disposal may be even worse
The Center said that while the current extent of contamination is cause for "grave concern," the long-term threat posed by the unlawful wastewater disposal may be even more devastating.
"Benzene, toluene and other harmful chemicals used in fracking fluid are routinely found in flowback water coming out of oil wells in California, often at levels hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe, and this flowback fluid is sent to wastewater disposal wells. Underground migration of chemicals like benzene can take years," the Center stated.
The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) shut down 11 Kern County oil field injection wells and began scrutinizing almost 100 others that were potentially contaminating protected groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate legal authority over underground injection, ordered state officials to provide an assessment of the water-contamination risk within 60 days, and the letter from the state Water Board confirms that illegal contamination has occurred at multiple sites.
California’s oil and gas fields produce billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater each year, much of which is injected underground. California has an estimated 2,583 wastewater injection wells, of which 1,552 are currently active, according to the Center.
Wastewater injection wells are located throughout the state, from the Chico area in Northern California to Los Angeles in Southern California and even include offshore wells near Santa Barbara. Kern County in the Southern San Joaquin Valley is home to the largest number of oil wells in California.
The fracking wastewater poses a huge threat not only to human health, but to fish including endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead and wildlife as the water makes its way to rivers and streams. The last thing that imperiled salmon and steelhead populations need, as they face a combination of drought and poor management of the state's reservoirs and rivers by the state and federal agencies, is the threat of increased pollution of their habitat by benzene, toluene and other harmful fracking chemicals,
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