Sometimes it seems like the Texas Two-Step is a rootin’-tootin’-pollutin’ hootenanny, with the Lone Star State’s energy industry leading a toothless government agency in a stomp on the windpipes of rural Texans. Thanks to an eight month-long investigation by the mighty multimedia trio InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel, we now know that a massive but relatively obscure (till now) fracking operation to extract oil and gas from the Eagle Ford Shale is spewing an alarming cocktail of contaminants into the air and the lungs of rural Texans while government agencies stand idly by, unable or unwilling to intervene.
The report documents one instance after another in which residents suffered significant health problems and found their homes rendered nearly uninhabitable by the noxious fumes. While the energy boom has undeniably proven to be a windfall for some of the local residents, it’s destroyed the quality of life for many others; along with severe headaches, nausea, breathing problems and other physical ailments, some lifelong residents can no longer sit on their porches because of a sickening stench and find a greasy residue coating their car windshields. Farmers can’t let their livestock graze anywhere near the wells for fear they’ll be poisoned. One farming family lost all six of its work dogs, who died a mysterious, agonizing death after vomiting and scratching themselves bloody (the vet ruled out the obvious suspects such as rat poison or antifreeze, but a necropsy was too expensive, so the family will never know the exact cause of death).
All these concerns are routinely dismissed by the energy companies as aberrations or exaggerations from anti-oil agitators. And the government agencies in charge of monitoring air quality give lip service to the notion that they’re making an honest effort to enforce existing regulations. But the investigation revealed a long and disheartening pattern of oversight so apathetic that it borders on catatonic, thanks to budget cuts and the corrupting influence of the Texan oil and gas cabal.
The fallout from the Eagle Ford fracking is a particularly egregious example of what happens when the energy industry runs amok, but communities all over the U.S. are coping with their own fracking calamities. Earlier this month in Pennsylvania, an explosion at a Chevron fracking site near Bobtown left one employee missing and presumed dead and started a fire that burned for five days.
As with their Texas counterparts near the Eagle Ford shale, dozens of Bobtown residents complained about headaches, nausea, skin rashes, foul odors and foul waters, as well as sickened pets and livestock. But Chevron, unlike its unapologetic Texas colleagues, acknowledged the harm that it had done the community. So, to make up for all that unpleasantness, Team Chevron compensated the good folks of Bobtown by giving them gift certificates redeemable at Bobtown Pizza for a “Special Combo” – one large pizza and a two-liter drink, good till May 1st.
Some people are questioning the wildly inappropriate nature of this gesture, but I’m going to give Chevron the benefit of the doubt, because I think I know who is to blame for this social media debacle. It’s gotta be Siri. Some muckety muck in Chevron’s pr department dictated a text to some poor flunky saying “send a peace offering to bobtown,” and Siri mangled the message so that it read “send a pizza.” I give ’em an ‘A’ for effort, and an ‘F’ for fracking.