Citizens of Maury County Tennessee who attended a public hearing last month received a daunting piece of news. Complain the wrong way about your water quality and you could be labeled a terrorist.
You read that right – diss the taste of your Tennessee tap water in a way that officials deem unfounded and you become the Osama Bin Laden of your cul-de-sac. In the words of Sherwin Smith, Deputy Director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Water Resources:
…you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.
Shocked attendees of the hearing were so taken aback that they asked Deputy Director Smith to repeat it – which he gladly did.
And that brings me to the Oil and Gas Industry.
By the merest coincidence, Maury County finds itself in the Chattanooga Shale natural gas field.
Also by coincidence I attended a screening of Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland Part Two last night. Gasland 2 is a good sequel – worthwhile because it pushes beyond the negative effects of fracking and looks at the response of the gas extraction industry and the EPA to those negative effects.
The response that we see in the film is industry and government acting in unison to silence affected families. The residents of Dimock PA, homeowners in the Barnett shale in Texas and families in Colorado who took action to protect their water were all forced into accepting settlements that included non-disclosure clauses. Some were told, off the record, that top officials of the EPA were withholding water quality studies that reveal high levels of toxins like methane, benzene and toluene in those water supplies.
Those homeowners got paid off, but only if they agreed to never speak about it, ever again. And it was also made clear to them not to expect any help from the government agencies charged with protecting their safety.
That brings me to the NSA and unwarranted surveillance.
We are being told, with increasing vehemence, that we must endure the loss of our 4th Amendment protections because the national security state is keeping us safe – “from the terrorists.”
Keeping safe sounds good, but increasingly we learn that the targets of all this spying, these suspected “terrorists” all too often include Occupy Movement wall street critics, environmental activists, and even members of Congress.
Maybe it’s time to call shenanigans on the claim that it’s all about “keeping us safe.”
We have over 10,000 gun murders annually in this country. Put another way, that’s three 9/11s a year, every year. And yet we can’t even manage to keep ourselves safer by requiring universal gun purchase background checks of felons and the mentally ill. The NRA tells us the 2nd Amendment trumps that.
But maybe gun control is too politically sensitive an issue to make a good comparison. How about this then:
Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection…The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.
The link to the study above is a report by the EPA that found benzene in groundwater around Wyoming fracking sites. Hand wringing concern over the safety of Americans made the EPA back away from their report in Wyoming and defer instead to the state-level environmental agency. Surprisingly, state officials are much less concerned over the benzene in their aquifer. Safety, schmafety.
All this is not to mention that the drive to “keep up safe” has so far failed to force the gas industry to reveal the stew of chemicals used in fracking fluids. It’s a proprietary recipe, you see, like Colonel Sanders’ 11 herbs and spices. And it’s vital that we let private things stay private.
The NSA, on the other hand, tells us it’s no problem trashing the 4th Amendment and the way it guards against unwarranted searches and seizures of our personal information. It’s all about our protection, don’t you see? They can’t tell us how, but they are on the front lines every day, keeping us safe. You want to feel safe, don’t you?
In fact, they are keeping us so secure that anyone who complains the wrong way and says something that threatens the profits of a large corporation runs the risk of getting their name on a list kept by the secret police.
I feel safer already, don’t you?