Thursday, July 9, 2015

Is Our Nation's Breadbasket Contaminated?

I read a report from Bloomberg this morning which detailed the fracking industry's problem with wastewater in California. Anybody else concerned that they are selling wastewater to farmers in the state where the vast majority of our vegetables grow?

"In central California’s San Joaquin Valley, Chevron piped almost 8 billion gallons of treated wastewater to almond and pistachio farmers last year. California Resources Corp., the state’s biggest oil producer, plans to quadruple the water it sells to growers, Chief Executive Officer Todd Stevens told investors at an April conference."

I understand that the farmers are desperate for water, but how in the world is this not an insane idea? According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, fracking wastewater is a "toxic stew of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm."

"In 2014, the first year of California’s groundbreaking fracking disclosure program, more than a dozen hazardous chemicals and metals as well as radiation were detected in the wastewater, some at average levels that are hundreds or thousands of times higher than the state’s drinking water standards or public health goals."

As most of you are aware, California has suffered through four years of an expected decade of severe drought. Per this article from NPR, "On Friday, June 12, California introduced water restrictions on some farmers. In a press release, the State Water Resources Control Board said the new limits will affect 114 senior water rights holders. They've been ordered to stop pumping water from drought-stricken rivers completely, or face fines of up to $1,000 per day and $2,500 per acre-foot of water 'unlawfully diverted.'"

"These farmers may still be able to rely on pumping groundwater, or buying water on the open market." (Emphasis added)

As for the oil industry, a significant increase in the supply of oil, thanks to purposefully aggressive production in Saudi Arabia, has decreased the price per barrel to under $60. In order to continue operations, most of the fracking companies purchased derivatives, which are like price insurance. Thanks to these derivatives, they've been able to continue selling their oil at $90+ per barrel. The problem is that 15-65% of their revenues are made up with these derivatives, and the contracts typically only last 12-18 months. That means that a large number of oil and gas companies are about to go belly up. In order to boost the value of their companies, so they can be purchased by the multinationals at a higher price, they will do whatever possible to increase revenues. That how selling contaminated wastewater to farmers is justified in the eyes of corporatists. By the time any damage is done, they will have already sold their company.

So we have an economic incentive for fracking companies to sell and farmers to buy contaminated water. These farmers grow an incredibly large portion of our nation's food supply. We have regulatory agencies that are underfunded and slow to act, with a recent Supreme Court case forcing them to now consider the costs to industries prior to creating new regulations. And last, we have a political system dominated by unregulated corporate campaign financing.

If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.

Your friend,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

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