As hungry as Americans are for cheap oil and gasoline, we’re certainly not thirsty for diesel fuel-contaminated groundwater, but that may be what more Utahns are in for with drillers who inject diesel underground without a permit in their fracking practice, according to this article in the Salt Lake Tribune. What’s wrong with that picture, according to advocates and oil and gas attorneys working with the Environmental Integrity Project, is that, well, they’re doing it illegally.
You’d think that as a country (or individual states) most of the laws, ordinances and statutes are on the books for good reasons and in the basic interest of the public. We know that’s not always the case, but in an internationally inspiring constitutional democracy that is the Glorious United States of America, a beacon of freedom and liberty around the world, we’d like to think it’s the case most of the time. So why, the investigative journalists, watchdog agencies, oil and gas attorneys and general public are asking, take the legal risk flouting regulations around drilling that are ostensibly put in place for the general safety and protection of the public?
What happens when drillers use exceptionally high pressure to inject diesel underground in the hopes of extracting crude products from shale? Contamination of underground drinking water sources. If we haven’t seen the movie, we’ve at least seen the preview for that exposé film about fracking in Pennsylvania where residents could run tap water from their kitchen sink and light it on fire. Disturbing, to say the least, and toxic and dangerous to health, too. Additionally, new reports from Pennsylvania are finding fracking-contaminated water to be radioactive. Great—we’ll begin to find three-eyed fish, similar to those in the opening credits for The Simpsons, mulling around our waterways.
More seriously, though, agencies like the EPI and other watchdog organizations are pushing for the Environmental Protection Agency to round up their oil and gas attorneys and enforce the regulations on the books. In Utah alone, more than 350 wells were injected with diesel without permits. These guys are literally playing with fire. And public safety. And lawsuits galore.
Mike Hancock, an oil and gas attorney in the Eagle Ford Shale region of Texas, and other lawyers like him are well aware of how industry players take shortcuts all the time, like when fracking companies dump their waste on the side of the road instead of properly disposing of it. The EIP insists that companies who see themselves as above the law should be heavily fined, to begin with, but that they may be facing lawsuits from residents injured by toxic groundwater that could cost them millions.
The drilling companies’ responses? Just cover up the evidence. Because while diesel was originally listed in reports of chemicals used in fracking, according to subsequent disclosure records, references to diesel had been conveniently deleted from databases. Claiming a “data entry error” may get these guys only so far, depending on what analyses turn up from the land itself, which the EPI says will tell no lies.