On 17th April, a home in Colorado was blasted to the ground, killing two people. The home was 178 feet (54 metres) from a recently restarted old gas well operated by Anadarko. The cause of the explosion: gas leak from a cut flow line off the gas well.
Such a loss is both terrible and preventable. Many questions need to be answered: Why would a gas well be allowed to be drilled so close to a home, or why would a house be allowed to be built so close to a gas well, be it abandoned or active? Who allowed Anadarko to activate the gas well, knowing how close it is to houses?
Here in New Zealand, Taranaki Energy Watch (TEW) is fighting hard to get the South Taranaki District Council to put in clear rules around the separation distances needed to minimize safety risks on neighbours and local communities. Instead of listening to TEW expert witnesses’ advice, the council scrapped the separation distance requirements altogether. Since TEW filed their appeal on the proposed district plan, all three Taranaki district councils have allied with the oil companies to fight the legal battle against TEW.
It seems local governments, at least in the case of Taranaki, are happy to support a dangerous, extractive petroleum industry that exploits our finite natural resources for corporate profits, to the extent of risking people’s lives. TEW needs all your help to win this battle and lay a safe blueprint for all oil and gas activities across Taranaki.
The oil industry is not the only exploiter by any means. Industrial agriculture, of which fertilizer manufacturing is a critical part, exploits not only the land that is farmed and the waterways nearby, but far-flung locations where phosphate and other minerals are mined. As this is being written, a shipment of 54,000 tonnes of phosphate rocks bound for New Zealand is detained in South Africa, after an allegation over the legality of the mined product. Ballance Agri-Nutrients says “it is comfortable with the legality and ethics of its phosphate source in Western Sahara…”
But “This whole trade is contributing to the suffering of these people; half of these people are refugees, the other half live under a terrible human rights situation...” stressed Western Sahara Resource Watch activist Eric Hagen. By the way, Ballance has a big fertilizer plant in South Taranaki which makes urea from natural gas fracked out of the ground here. The elevated levels of nitrate and ammonia plumes in the groundwater onsite are well documented. By supporting such an exploitative industry, we are helping to proliferate the ‘sacrificial zones‘ that it creates across our world, often among the most vulnerable communities.
Making change is not easy but change we must. Our Climate Declaration commits us to: 1) Stop the bad stuff; 2) Bring on the good; and 3) Pressure the government… The Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA), along with other groups and many concerned individuals, have just stopped a proposal to strip-mine the Mokau River catchment for coal – bad stuff truly and great effort for stopping it!
Indeed, with a bit of critical thinking, lots of courage and an injection of creativity, there are countless things we can try. While driverless cars may appear far-fetched and not everyone can afford an electric car (EV), fleets of shared EVs could “trump car-ownership pride” with the cost savings, flexibility and environmental benefits.
Certainly, electric cars or even rail are not going to fix all our global problems, and neither will solar panels or wind turbines. It is the sharing philosophy that we need to rekindle and nurture. While the ‘sharing economy’ may become hijacked by corporate interests, it remains a worthwhile concept to pursue, especially when the focus is shifted away from consumption towards regeneration and community well-being.
Have you tried ‘pay it forward’?