Last week we recounted the state Oil and Gas Board's vote in favor of new rules ostensibly regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, despite environmentalists' claims that the regulations didn't even meet the industry standards set by the American Petroleum Institute. But the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was just fine with the new rules. In an e-mail, TDEC spokesperson Meg Lockhart said:
The department has strived for a transparent and inclusive process in developing these draft rules, seeking out input from a variety of stakeholders as directed by the General Assembly in 2011. These stakeholders included both environmental groups and industry representatives ...We believe these rule changes provide sound protection for the environment, while also not impairing the ability of industry to develop a domestic clean energy supply. ...Prior to today's meeting, TDEC incorporated many changes to the final draft rules based on stakeholder input -- including lengthening the public notice period and requiring contingency plans to deal with spills or other unplanned incidents at drill sites. We appreciate all of the input received and believe the end result to be a strong and balanced package that modernizes the state's oil and gas rules and addresses issues of concern as they have the potential to affect Tennessee. [emphasis ours]
But now comes the news, thanks to an investigation by Nashville's News Channel 5, that TDEC maybe didn't actually take all those public comments very seriously at all. The station got its hands on copies of e-mails and letter about fracking sent to Mike Burton, the supervisor of the Oil and Gas program--e-mails with Burton's own notations on them. Notations like this:
And comments like this:
When asked about the comments, Burton didn't offer much of a defense:
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Burton, "Did you write stupid on some of these comments?""I did," he admitted.Why did he do that?"It was a time of frustration and I vented my frustrations on paper," he answered.Burton said that his notes were never meant to be public and he apologizes.
Oh, ok. The comments were never meant to be public! That makes it totally fine!
You really should read the whole story/watch the video for yourself--it shows not only the obvious contempt in which Burton holds environmentalists but also demonstrates his ignorance:
One of the comments he underlined and called stupid claims hydraulic fracturing has left "homes and farms abandoned, livestock gone" in other states.NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "What's wrong with that comment?""There's no recorded incident of that happening anywhere in the United States because of fracking," Burton responded.But, in Louisiana, 17 cows died after coming in direct contact with hydraulic fracturing fluid.In Pennsylvania, methane gas filled homes near a fracking site forcing families to leave. The company responsible paid the families $1.6 million."This is not common," Burton said.NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed, "But it has happened.""Apparently it has happened. Livestock has died, but I don't know if it was caused by the fracking fluid," Burton said.
So, yeah, this is the guy partially responsible for rewriting the rules now regulating fracking in our state. Good job, Tennessee.
You can read the whole slew of comments here: FrackingEmails.pdf