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‘Clean’ Energy and Poisoned Water
Posted on May 25, 2009
By Chris Hedges
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a congressional hearing on Tuesday that the agency would consider revisiting its official position that this drilling technique does not harm groundwater. A 2004 study conducted by the EPA under the Bush administration concluded that hydraulic fracturing causes “no threat” to underground drinking water. The study was used to support the provision in the 2005 energy bill that exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal regulation.
We do not know, because there is no federal oversight, the exact formula of the chemicals added to the water. We do not know, because the industry has been greenlighted through state regulatory agencies, what the millions of gallons of poison underground will do to our drinking water. We are told to trust the natural gas industry, as we were told to trust Wall Street. And if our drinking water becomes contaminated, then expect corporations to profit from the desperation.
Corporations like Bechtel have been buying up water reservoirs around the globe in anticipation of future water shortages. And what they will do when they control our water was illustrated in Bolivia a decade ago. The World Bank forced Bolivia to privatize the public water system of its third-largest city, Cochabamba. It threatened to withhold debt relief and other development assistance if the city did not comply. Bechtel, which was the only bidder, was granted a 40-year lease to take over Cochabamba’s water through a subsidiary called Aguas del Tunari.
“Urinetown” was visited on Cochabamba in 2000 within weeks of the privatization. Aguas del Tunari imposed massive rate hikes on local water users of more than 50 percent, according to the Cochabamba-based Democracy Center. Families living on the local minimum wage of $60 per month were billed up to 25 percent of their income for water. The rate hikes sparked citywide protests. The Bolivian government declared martial law in Cochabamba and deployed thousands of soldiers and police to restore order. More than 100 people were injured in the rioting and a 17-year-old boy was killed. The Cochabamba project was abandoned, but Bechtel and other corporations are not done. Bechtel’s control of the water supply in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a few years later resulted in water shutoffs, contamination, and a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. Water in a world of scarcity will be very profitable. And Bechtel is preparing for the bonanza at home and abroad.
Profit, even if it results in widespread human suffering, is the core of America’s ruthless unregulated corporate capitalism. Our health care industry profits from sickness and death by excluding those who most need coverage. Our financial industry created perhaps the largest speculative bubble in human history and trashed our economy as well as looting our treasury. Our oil and gas industries, whose profits are obscene, wreck the environment and poison our water. And the worse it gets for us, the better it gets for them. You may not need to travel to a theater to see “Urinetown.” It could soon be coming to you.
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