Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the largest human-caused catastrophes in our history. Since then, the oil and gas industry has continued its quest to squeeze as many fossil fuels from the ground as possible, with little regard for public safety and the environment.
This is mostly evidenced in its approach to drilling and fracking for oil and gas. As we’ve noted time and again, fracking threatens public safety in myriad ways. Scientists have found that 25 percent of the hundreds of chemicals used in the process are linked to cancer; 37 percent disrupt the reproductive system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. A recent study by scientists from Colorado School of Public Health and Brown University found an association between certain birth defects and the proximity of the mother’s residence to fracking wells during pregnancy.
In Pennsylvania, the epicenter of the nation’s fracking boom, with nearly 5,000 shale gas wells drilled between 2005 and 2011, fracking has introduced a host of new problems. Food & Water Watch analysis found that oil and gas development in rural Pennsylvania communities contributed to an increase in traffic accidents, social disorder arrests and sexually transmitted infections.
Last October, the U.S. Coast Guard proposed a policy that would allow oil and gas companies to ship wastewater generated from fracking down our nation’s waterways by barge, a scenario with potentially chilling repercussions.
Ultimately, today’s anniversary is a harrowing reminder of the potential consequences of shuffling oil and gas around the globe, a plan our nation’s leaders have been aggressively pushing in recent days. Regulations can’t prevent a disaster like the Exxon Valdez spill. That’s why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground where they belong, and enact policies that facilitate the deployment of truly renewable resources.