The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health held a joint hearing in Washington D.C. Wednesday called “Oversight of EPA Authorities and Actions to Control Exposures to Toxic Chemicals.” The Senators, led by the chair of the committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), did markup the Safe Chemical Act.
“Today’s vote is a victory for American families dealing with the many health problems, like childhood cancer, linked to unregulated chemicals,” said Andy Igrejas and Lindsay Dahl of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “We have a long way to go, but this is the first official action by a Congressional Committee to address the problem in 36 years. We hope Senate Republicans can find a way to join in this important work as this legislation moves to the Senate floor.”
This is the first time the act, which proponents say will protect American families from chemicals — like those in Fracking Chemical Cocktail and Trichloroethylene who I interviewed for the Third Annual Toxies — has been sent to the floor of the Senate. Elated activists are now trying to encourage Senators to endorse the act.
“We need your Senator to know that you support the Safe Chemicals Act and want them to vote to protect public health,” said Christina Medina of the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health. “Our partners at the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition will send an email on behalf of you and other concerned residents to Senate staff and let them know that you’ll be watching their vote this week.”
The historic day also saw groups led by the Clean Water Action, Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles march on California EPA’s headquarters in Sacramento for a “Stop Fracking with California rally.” Dozens of activists staged the demonstration carrying signs that read “FRACKING POISONS OUR PLANET” and “Ban Fracking in California!”
Fracking opponents say that the practice of injecting up to 600 chemicals, including four radionuclides, into the ground to force shale gas to the surface wastes and contaminates water, destroys drinking water wells, spread radiation, moonscape the environment and precipitate earthquakes in parts of the country and world where nuclear reactors aren’t built to withstand major shakers which could cause meltdowns.
“By pressuring oil and gas regulators to develop quick and dirty regulations and permit oil companies to expand fracking in California, the Governor is ignoring the threats that are unique to our state- like big earthquakes, poor air quality, and scarce water” said Miriam Gordon, the California Director of Clean Water Action, in a written statement. “We are particularly concerned about the intensive fracking planned in the Central Valley, where 90% of the population relies on groundwater for drinking water- a source that is heavily polluted already- and where air quality is so bad that the asthma rate is 3 times the national average. Today we are calling on the Governor to STOP the rush to develop on-shore oil and focus instead on developing cleaner, less water-intensive energy technologies.”
Clean Water Action’s allies were equally adamant about the clear and present danger they say fracking poses.
“Fracking poses unacceptable risks to our air, water and climate,” said Kristin Lynch, Pacific Region Director of Food and Water Watch. “If fracking is as safe as the industry claims, why did they find it necessary to spend millions lobbying Congress to win exemptions from key provisions in major environmental laws including the Safe Drink Water Act, Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Protection Act?”
“The fracking boom is a mortal threat to California’s environment and public health,” said Rose Braz, Climate Campaign Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many people know that fracking can foul the water, pollute the air, and threaten endangered wildlife. But fracking’s dirty little secret is the amount of greenhouse gas pollution it emits. If oil companies frack the 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale, we’ll be lighting the fuse on a carbon bomb that will shatter our state’s efforts to fight global warming.”
“Fracking will visit most of the state as producers search for new oil and gas deposits, testing California communities, and our environment, said Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate, Sierra Club California. “We want full and open disclosure and review as to what we and the oil and gas companies will risk and what California overall will gain. Sierra Club California follows the same safeguard and first principle of the Federal Food and Drug Administration – Prove No Harm, ban fracking until it can be proven to be no risk to the public, communities, our natural resources, and environment. If the State government and regulators won’t do it for California, we will work with counties and cities to do the job that the State can’t or won’t do.”
“Frackie,” or Fracking Chemical Cocktail, begged to disagree during an interview I conducted with the Toxie in Los Angeles after I watched her win for Worst Performance in a Mystery. Coming on the tail of the Third Annual Toxies Awards at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood, this was the hardest one-on-one this environmental reporter has ever had and tested every fiber in my being to be the award-winning investigative journalist that I thought I was.
I failed, no match for the saucy vixen. Frackie seemed to relish her badness and stopped at nothing to co-opt a hapless reporter. “I frack to drill,” Frackie purred, “and drill to frack.”
What does somebody, anybody, say to that when talking to a toxic siren who can sex up even the hardest-nosed reporter, leaving him her lap dog over something as controversial as fracking?
The Toxie tapes released here show to what lengths figureheads like Frackie will go to advance their interests, interests that don’t necessarily benefit anyone or anything getting fracked. That is unless you’re standing next to her with her trademark tray of toxic cocktails.
The fracking industry has no more potent spokeschemical than Frackie. Or more shameless. “You need to get fracked,” Frackie said. “Hot shots like you need to get a grip on what’s really important if you’re ever going to succeed. You’re going to have to play nice if you want to cover me!”
Later reached for comment about the Sacramento anti-fracking rally July 25, Frackie laughed off the demonstration. “I’m glad these hippies could all get together to get their ya-ya’s off but, frackily, I’m not impressed,” Frackie chuckled. “We have more lobbyists per Senator than all the Birkenstock-wearing, hacky sack-playing Deadheads that showed up to that pathetic excuse of a rally. Californians want to get fracked. You sure did.”
Frackie had hit the road looking for community meetings and anti-fracking rallies so she could turn a few heads and sway a few minds about the industry’s secret sauce – Fracking Chemical Cocktail.
“I’ve been in the Empire State this week and I’m going to the Newfield, New York ‘community conversation’ about fracking July 31,” Frackie whispered in a conspiratorial voice. “The men around here already like me but their women not so much. Especially when we’re doing Shale Shooters. The men think it’s down the hatch but it’s actually right between the eyes. As in I will make lots of money when I sign on the dotted line that says ‘Frack Me!’ That’s when the fracking gets really fun. Or did you forget that when I had to be on my way after our little frack together?”
Speechless, I didn’t know if I was furious or jealous. Frackie drilling New Yorkers just seemed wrong but what could I do about it?
I’ve been covering Trichloroethylene, or TCE, since early 2003 (See: Air Apparent, Ventura County Reporter February 13, 2012) and watched it as the center of controversy at the old Rocketdyne facility 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles where America’s worst partial meltdown occurred in July 1959. Over 530,000 gallons of TCE foul the groundwater which isn’t being remediated because of a recalcitrant Boeing, owner of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Before Boeing turned off its “air-stripping” charcoal granulated towers in 2006, they were cleaning 10 gallons of the rocket engine solvent out of the groundwater a year which, at that rate, would take over half a million years to clean up.
Of course that’s of little concern to Tricholorethylene who treated this reporter in an interview to an abrasive appraisal of his toxic properties. “Well, since I’m a solvent and de-greaser, at least half a million workers are exposed to me every year,” TCE told me. “I can vaporize underground and up into buildings at many industrial sites, making workers loopy, poisoning them and dramatically increasing the male breast cancer rate. Not to mention the fact that I’m extremely addictive.”
Rocketdyne served up TCE-contaminated drinking water to its workers until 1964 when they switched to bottled drinking water. Water from the tape and showers, however, still came from the contaminated groundwater for decades after. TCE’s cancerous swath doesn’t end at aerospace facilities — the toxic chemical is the main ingredient in some popular pepper sprays (See: “What’s in Pepper Spray?” LA Weekly, February 23, 2012) and I wanted to know why.
“I’m cheap and easy,” Trichloroethylene joked. “I evaporate quickly and take oils off skin leaving it wide open for the pepper to really hurt. Now, to the great people using pepper spray. Hello! I’m a solvent! I slowly dissolve and leak out of the can and it just takes a little tiny bit of me to give cancer.”
The Toxie Tapes reveal a more touchy side of TCE as our interview devolved into a verbal fistfight revealing the carcinogen to be an angry and defiant chemical with issues. The tapes also reveal the shortcomings of a reporter at once repelled and entranced by the likes of Fracking Chemical Cocktail with her abundant and available temptations. All across America, the purveyors of fracking and cheap pepper spray ply poor scribes for positive coverage which they use as cover for their covert deeds.
All too often, when faced with the fracking of a lifetime, journalists fall off the wagon and dive in deep into cocktails best left alone. Looking at Frackie’s delights I thought long and hard.
“That will be my pleasure,” Frackie cooed.
We’re fracked, America, fracked.