Oil/gas industry influence on regulators, and school kids

This morning’s headlines include stories about the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to influence safety regulators, and school kids.

A San Francisco Chronicle investigation finds that two-thirds of the 174 pipeline safety studies started in the last decade have been largely funded by pipeline operators or organizations they control. It turns out that federal regulators require outside funding cover at least half the cost of most pipeline safety studies, a policy the White House now says it wants to change.

The Chronicle concludes that studies have largely ignored risks related to aging infrastructure, which was a factor in two deadly pipeline explosions in California in the past four years. The newspaper also found examples in which industry officials were allowed to edit the wording of final reports. A former commissioner for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, John Ahearne, tells the paper it appears the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has been “providing some sort of cover” for the industry.

“Just the fact that they are going through the motions of doing studies is not adequate, unless the studies have been developed by a critical process. And that doesn’t sound like that exists in that tiny agency,” said Ahearne.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s complete investigation here.

Meanwhile, Erich Schwartzel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette comes across a new coloring book staring “Talisman Terry, the Friendly Fracosaurus.” The coloring book was created by Calgary-based Talisman Energy and teaches children all about the benefits of hydraulic fracturing. For example, after drilling, new trees, bald eagles, even rainbows appear.

See:

The company’s U.S. spokesperson, Natalie Cox, defended the coloring book as “fairly innocuous” and appropriate for the intended age. “Let’s keep in mind our audience. If you’re talking age 9 or younger, you can’t get into the questions like, ‘What is in fracking fluid?'”

By the way, the industry has started to answer that question for adults. The Wall Street Journal reports that the natural gas industry has begun to disclose more information about the chemicals it uses during fracking.

(h/t to the Society of Environmental Journalists)

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