It’s bad enough that state governments are so beholden to the fossil fuels industry that they are overturning local municipal laws that ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” To add insult to injury, it turns out that these companies don’t even have to reveal what chemicals they’re using. While a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision has allowed homeowners to sue these companies, those companies are under no obligation to tell the courts – or anyone else – about the substances with which they’re poisoning your water. Furthermore, the Federal Government has no plans to force them to do so.

At least the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has admitted that chemical contamination of aquifers is occurring. However, there are no disclosures of what chemical horrors are inflicted on the water that everyone depends upon for survival. Nor has the EPA followed through on earlier assurances that detailed studies of the problem would be carried out. All that the regulatory agency will do is admit that the evidence is “uncertain” and the data “insufficient.”

In 2005, that oil and gas industry has managed to get itself exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act. They don’t even have to file special permits anymore – except when they’re employing diesel fuels. They’ve managed to garner support for fracking from the current Presidential Administration, and have convinced Mr. “Hope and Change” that fracking is nothing more than a “transition” while we move on to renewable energy sources. Even if that were true (environmental scientists say it’s “not that simple”), what makes anyone think a powerful industry like oil and gas is going to allow renewable energy to invade its turf without one hell of a fight?

At least one federal agency – the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – has made a feeble attempt to force fracking companies to publicly identify the over 1,000 chemicals used in their operations. The new regulations would also have required gas and oil companies to follow certain standards in construction, operations and disposal of toxic waste water. However, at behest of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Western Energy Alliance, and the governors of several western states, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl put the kibosh on that.

There’s not a lot of readily available information about Judge Skavdahl’s political leanings or any connections to the fossil fuels industry. However, his jurisdiction is the oil-producing State of Wyoming. Make of that information what you will.

Judge Skavdahl has placed an injunction on the new BLM rules until July 22nd – giving corporate lawyers for the oil and gas companies plenty of time to find ways to stop those regulations altogether.

In the meantime, it all promises to be a boon to the bottled water industry. One wonders if there is any connection – or if the poisoning of aquifers and other water sources might set the corporate wolves at each other’s throats.

Most likely, they simply don’t give a tinker’s damn.


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.