Fracking ‘silence’ for life: Gag orders on children & censored government data

Fracking ‘silence’ for life by Inter Press Service, August 9, 2013, Asia Times Online
WASHINGTON – New signs have emerged in recent days which indicate extreme measures are being taken in order to suppress evidence of the pernicious effects of the energy extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.  At the beginning of this month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed that in 2011 a Pennsylvania family reached an unprecedented settlement with an energy company fracking near their property. It included gag orders on the family’s two children, ages seven and 10 at the time of the settlement, which prohibit them from, at any point in their lives, discussing their experiences living near a fracking site.

This revelation came only days after the Los Angeles Times reported that it had obtained a set of government-censored Powerpoint slides related to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. The slides conclude that fracking was indeed polluting the aquifer in question.

Critics of the controversial extraction method note that these examples are part of an overall cover-up strategy being employed by the oil and gas industry.

“The industry uses its influence in DC to shut down studies by the EPA, while simultaneously using the legal system as a weapon to silence its victims,” Brendan Demelle, executive director of DeSmog Blog, the organization that obtained the Powerpoint slides and made them public, told IPS. The concluding slide states that “[m]ethane is is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling”. Further, it asserts this methane, along with other gases released during extraction “apparently cause[s] significant damage to the water quality” of surrounding aquifers. Dispersed methane is the most notorious pollutant associated with fracking. It is a colorless and odorless gas that, when concentrated highly enough, can spoil water sources, and in some cases make them flammable.

According to critics, the pernicious effects of fracking are being obfuscated by powerful companies who profit from popular ignorance. “Advertising and lobbying are deployed by the energy companies to confuse the public, and meanwhile anyone who has suffered from their practices gets a muzzle,” Steve Horn, a research fellow at DeSmog Blog, told IPS. “They use every avenue of our broken democracy to their advantage,” Horn added, referring to the energy companies.

The DeSmog Blog activists agree that power and wealth allow the fossil fuel industry to “call the shots” when it comes to fracking. They note that because of this advantage companies can afford “endless legal fees”, a luxury out of reach of ordinary citizens who may want to challenge them in court. “It is rare for cases to reach the stage of a full-blown trial. Normally families and individuals wind up settling for less than what they want because the alternative would be much worse for them,” says DeMelle.

In the case of the Hallowich family, whose children are prohibited for the rest of their lives from uttering certain “illegal words” related to fracking, the sum of the settlement was US$750,000. … “The muzzling of a seven-year-old is just an egregious example of the systematic corruption which the oil industry has spent years orchestrating,” Horn told IPS.  … “Rather than taking responsible steps to address community concerns about the inherent risks of fracking,” says DeMelle, “the industry is taking an adversarial approach, treating concerned citizens as an ‘insurgency’ and using military warfare tactics and personnel to intimidate US citizens in their own backyards. “It’s unethical, despicable behavior, and congress should investigate whether the oil industry is in violation of federal law,” he added in a statement given to IPS.

Other cases of the industry suppressing government studies of fracking effects include one that took place in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. There, an emergency order was issued by the EPA after a man complained of his water supply bubbling, only to be rescinded a year later after the oil company involved threatened the agency. In the end, no government action was taken, and the man who complained was left to pay a $1,000 dollars per month to have access to clean water.

Another EPA study conducted in Wyoming connected fracking to water contamination, but again industry manipulation led to no further action being taken, despite some of the contamination being carcinogenic.

The EPA was originally slated to release a comprehensive study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing in 2014. The deadline for that report, however, has been pushed back to 2016.

The industry uses its influence in DC to shut down studies by the EPA, while simultaneously using the legal system as a weapon to silence its victims

Brendan Demelle, executive director, DeSmog Blog

Govt, Energy Industry Accused of Suppressing Fracking Dangers by Jared Metzker, August 8, 2013, Inter Press Service

[Refer also to: 

An Unseen Leak, Then Boom

Confidentiality Agreements, The Problem: Confidentiality agreements in lawsuit settlements can be harmful, even deadly, to the public

EPA Fracking Study Rebukes Agency’s Own Safety Claims, DeSmog Exclusive: Censored EPA PA fracking water contamination In Dimock, opponent neither surprised nor hopeful over EPA leak of information on water contaminated with methane

2013 08 05 EPA slide_two drilling releases methane and other gases that cause significant damage to water quality

Isotopic fingerprints don’t lie; people do; Internal EPA report suggests methane from hydraulic fracturing contaminated wells at Dimock, Pa

Fracking company Encana suspected of contaminating ground water at Pavillion Wyoming, takes control of investigation, EPA refuses to finalize study blaming fracking for water pollution

Pavillion driller EnCana blasts EPA findings of hydraulic fracturing contaminating ground water and well water

Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements

Hydraulic Fracturing in Canada, Federal Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan Reports Concerns, List of Fracking Substances in Canada Still Secret

Investigators say an accumulation of gases appears to have caused the explosion that destroyed the Rosebud water tower and sent a Wheatland County employee to hospital ]

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