Questionable Offshore Drilling is Exempt from Review

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Environmentalists have fought against offshore fracking for natural gas and oil for years. Recently the news organization Truthout and the Center for Biological Diversity have used the Freedom of Information Act to release documents related to the federal government’s views on this practice. They find that wastewater, along with chemicals used in fracking, are routinely dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in order to use fracking. They have also learned that more than 1500 permits for offshore drilling were approved between 2010 and 2014 ­ many of which mention fracking, and others which were not released.

They have also learned that many of these wells are exempt from review, a controversial practice which received attention when the Deepwater Horizon was not reviewed and resulted in a terrible environmental disaster in the Gulf. It may come as a surprise that even after that disaster not only does offshore drilling persist, but also the categorical exemption of certain drilling sites from environmental­based reviews.

The wastewater that results from the processes of fossil fuel drilling is dumped back into the Gulf after it is used. In 2014, 20 billion gallons were dumped into the Gulf. Just days before the Truthout article, another was published by the Environmental Defense Fund that asks how this wastewater from the drilling can be disposed of responsibly, or even better yet, used effectively as a resource. The article suggests that this wastewater could possibly be used in agriculture for irrigation or livestock.

Both of these articles call for the same first step in dealing with these problems: learning more about how serious the problem really is, and the chemical makeup of the wastewater produced. To reuse the wastewater, or to dispose of it properly, the potential dangers it poses must be understood. After the Freedom of Information Act releases, Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity spoke with Truthout. In her interview, she backs up this conclusion when she says that “the federal government… can’t sit idly by without any understanding of the effects of the toxic chemicals being dumped into the ocean.”


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