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Will Rogers on Fellow Okie, Scott Pruitt.

Posted on | October 17, 2017 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers, once said,  “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” 

On August 2, 2017, that parrot was doing overtime, and he kept squawking,  “Pruitt, Pruitt, Pruitt.” That’s because Oklahoma had just experienced 7 earthquakes in 28 hours. Scientists agree that these increasingly common geological events, rare in the state until 2009, are the result of injecting heavily contaminated fracking wastewater in underground disposal wells.

Adding insult to injury is President Trump’s appointment of former Okie attorney general, Scott Pruitt, as head of our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the very same agency to which he had mailed a letter requesting regulatory relief using exact oil company text cut and pasted onto his official state stationary. That little offense was after he had challenged core results of climate scientists on global warming, and after he sued the EPA for relief from having to enforce regional smog rules including levels of airborne mercury pollution.

Not only did Oklahoma frackers inject their own wastewater, but they had been happily importing other firms wastewater for disposal after states like Kansas and Arkansas began restricting the practice. In 2015, this amounted to an additional 2.4 million barrels of the stuff, imported and injected into Oklahoma’s subterranean landscape.

Source: YouTube

But not surprisingly, this was pretty good politics. Pruitt’s campaign manager was oil billionaire, Harold Hamm, who notoriously stated at the Republican National Convention in 2016, “Every time we can’t drill a well in America, terrorism is being funded. Every onerous regulation puts American lives at risk.”

Pruitt and Hamm’s situational ethics aside, evidence is mounting that there is more for Okie citizens to worry about than just a few broken dishes. What they are playing with in Okie health.

A few facts on fracking:

1. More than half of our domestically consumed oil and gas comes from fracking.

2. The process involves injecting high pressure, treated water into porous rock strata accessed through horizontal well drilling. Over 100,000 domestic wells have been drilled in the past decade.

3. Ten states sit over vast shale depots including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota and Montana.

4. Fracking is complex, multi-stepped, and carries proven risks of air, soil, and water pollution.

5. The water injected during fracking includes sand and a range of chemicals including silicates, acids, and surfactants. The wastewater recovered is contamininated with heavy metals like barium, manganese and iron, radium, and organic compounds lincluding benzene, toluene, xylenes, oil and grease. 95% of that wastewater is injected into deep disposal wells underground.

This week’s JAMA report outlined a range of health concerns including:

1. Asthma: In the states overlying the Marcellus shale (Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky), asthma patients living near wells were more likely to fill a prescription for oral corticosteroids than control patients living farther away.

2. Silicosis: Workers now must be monitored longitudinally to measure the impact of their respiratory exposure to crystalline silica.

3. Studies are now looking at both neurotoxicity and nephrotoxicity of fracking effluent. This includes manganese impact on basal ganglia and potential association with parkinsonism, mercury effects on dorsal root ganglia and association with idiopathic neuropathy, conversion of mercury to the more toxic methyl mercury by aquatic microorganisms, and altered renal function in those exposed to fracking water.

EPA head Scott Pruitt spends a great deal of time these days flying around on private jets at taxpayers expense. But he’d do well to spend more time on the ground with eyes wide open. Here are a few things he might look to regulating:

1. Fracking fluid spills.

2. Fracking storage wells wells with sub-par mechanical integrity.

3. Injection of fracking fluid into ground drinking water.

4. Inadequate treatment of fracking effluents.

5. Disposal of fracking fluid into unlined and permeable pits.

Or as Will Rogers said, “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”

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