Rest in Peace?

Residents outside of Aztec, New Mexico are less worried about resting in peace and more worried about living in peace.

Since energy giant BP has bought up the majority of the mineral rights in the area, homeowners have had little say in the oil tycoon’s decision to drill a well in their own backyard.

With wells as close as 150 yards to peoples’ backdoors and coupled with the poor maintenance and upkeep BP is known for, homes are being infiltrated with toxic chemicals.  In many cases, residents can’t even leave their house without seeing and feeling the toxic scar of the oil and gas industry.

Residents of Aztec are being subjected to this nightmare so BP can frack the earth.

Aztec is located in the four corners part of New Mexico and Colorado which unfortunately sits on top of the Lewis Shale; an oil producing area similar to the infamous Marcellus Shale of the East Coast.  This area ins being viewed with dollar signs by big oil companies which have begun using the Haliburton-developed drilling technology, hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

Fracking, a form of Extreme Energy, is incredibly destructive and highly toxic for the nearby community.  The process of fracking emits Nitrogen Oxide and volatile organic compounds, including Hydrogen Sulfide, into the air and leaves toxic waste-water pools around the community. Researchers estimate that 65 of the chemical compounds released into the air through fracking are harmful to human health.  Short term effects of exposure include itchy/burning eyes while long term effects can mean contracting a rare cancer.

And some effects aren’t that subtle.   In Durango, Colorado a house literally exploded due to a methane leak in a nearby oil well, but the drilling continues…..

This was a place that the GCM team had to get to.

We started out with an infamous toxic tour through North Western New Mexico, the same tour that was featured in the HBO Documentary, Gasland, with the same tour guide, and in fact the same truck.  We drove around neighborhoods, schools, churches all struggling to co-exist in a toxic bubble.

According to Josh Fox, Gasland filmaker, “A loophole in the 2005 Energy Bill exempts gas drillers from EPA guidelines, like the Clean Water Act.”  This allows Big Oil to make the rules which safeguard our health.

Like the rule of spraying the toxic waste-water ponds into the air in hopes of evaporation.  Even deep water drilling was more thought out that that!

Aside from making the rules, oil and gas companies are also the only ones enforcing them.  It’s not uncommon to see the protective liner, separating the toxic waste-water from the ground water, floating around on the surface of the waste-water pond.

Does the oil and gas industry even care about toxic containment?  Residents can literally light their tap water on fire, but the drilling continues……

And GCM was ready for action.  We teamed up with a grassroots community organization, The San Juan Alliance, and led a Bucket Brigade Training.  We connected with the residents, taught them how to take an accurate air sample and empowered them with Buckets!  They no longer have to sit around waiting for the EPA to come out and do air monitoring.

While the drilling will continue, (it needs to for the community’s economy), with the power of the new Bucket Brigade, the oil and gas industry will learn to be a better neighbor.