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Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review. Palast also directed the U.S. government's largest racketeering case in history, winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of fraud charges in the Exxon Valdez grounding.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. Two groundbreaking scientific reports on fracking have just been released. One is from Duke University that found dangerous levels of radioactivity at a fracking waste site. And the second report is titled Fracking by the Numbers: Key Impacts of Dirty Drilling at the State and National Level. This is the first report to measure the damaging footprint of fracking to date.With us to discuss these studies and the controversy surrounding fracking is Greg Palast. He's an investigative reporter whose stories have been broadcast on the BBC. Thanks for joining us, Greg.So, Greg, the Duke study outlines that from January to June 2013, most of the millions of barrels of waste from unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania is disposed of within Pennsylvania. But some of it also went to other states, like Ohio and New York, despite being a moratorium on shale gas exploration in those states. And in July, a treatment company in New York State pleaded guilty to falsifying more than 3,000 water tests. Are we seeing any repercussions come from this? And how is this dangerous wastewater getting processed in states that have banned fracking?GREG PALAST, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BBC AND THE GUARDIAN: Well, it's the wonderful little loopholes that allow sludge to cross borders. I'm not even sure that New York could say we won't take sludge from another state. That's interstate commerce, and that's up to the boneheads under Boehner and Congress. So, you know, New York can say no to fracking, at least for now, but I don't think it can say no to fracking junk and fracking poisons.As to the study itself, the Duke study is telling us something which, while it's new, it's not surprising, which is that when you stick a straw into Mother Nature's colon, you're going to suck up all kinds of nasty stuff. Okay? It was buried under there. We have evolved as human beings on the surface, and we've been protected by Mother Nature by thousands of feet of rock, where this stuff is kept safe and sequestered from human beings never evolved to handle this stuff. We're sucking it up. And so it's not surprising that radioactive isotopes are coming up with it, 'cause that's what is under the earth, and we're going to hit this stuff, because fracking, unlike a lot of other drilling, involves tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of wells in new and odd spots that have not been thoroughly tested for their underground chemistry. So it's not surprising. You're going to drop 10,000, 20,000 wells into unknown areas, you're going to come up with some strange stuff. I mean, we might suck up the Loch Ness monster at some point here. But we're certainly sucking up the poison monsters.DESVARIEUX: Okay. And it could potentially affect our groundwater. Have there been any studies that are actually saying--I believe the Duke study is actually saying that it has the potential or is even affecting the groundwater in Pennsylvania.PALAST: The chance that it will affect groundwater is about 100 percent. And what I mean by that is just the drilling itself--forget the--actually, even forget the fracking process. We're now dropping 100,000, 200,000 new wells into the earth, small places in places like Pennsylvania, just crazy places that have drinking aquifers for cities, for our farms. So, you know, listen, if it's sprayed on your broccoli, then when--you know, you're going to be sucking that isotope in as well as it gets into the digestion pathway. So, because we're going to these new areas with hundreds of thousands of wells--all those wells have to have cement casings, and we know that cement casings crack. Well, when they crack in the middle of Midland, Texas, you're not going to know. You know, it's in the middle of nowhere. Same with South Dakota with oil fracking. We're going into populated areas, right next to drinking reservoirs and aquifers. The chance that those will get polluted is absolutely 100 percent. Every single drilling field we've ever had, every single one has had various cracks, releases, failures in the pipes, even if you don't involve the whole process of fracking, which involves literally blowing apart pipes underground so that you'll crack or fracture the rock, and then the happy juice, the natural gas, flows back through.In the Marcellus Shale, which is what we're digging into in Pennsylvania and New York and Ohio, that's just a crazy place to be drilling whatsoever. Fracking or even conventional drilling is nuts, just straight nuts there. We have huge empty area, depopulated fracking fields and oilfields in places like the Dakotas and Colorado and Texas, but to be doing it anywhere near the population centers of the Northeast is greed gone nuts.DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let's discuss a little more about that greed and also the political pollution, as you described it off-camera to me. Can you describe, discuss the so-called Halliburton loophole? What does that mean? And how did that come about?PALAST: Well, yes, one of the--to me as I've said, one of the greatest dangers of fracking, this new expansion drilling, is political pollution, not just groundwater pollution. The 2005 Clean Water Act was meant to make sure that we don't drink sludge, crud, poisons and our kids don't grow up with a third eye. This is really serious stuff. This is something that everyone wanted, in all parties, supposedly. But Halliburton spent something like $25 million in lobbying to get hydraulic fracking, fracking excluded from the Clean Water Act. So people think, oh well, you know, in fact, the industry says, there's plenty of regulations that protect the water. But the main regulation doesn't apply. It's like saying, well, we have a speed limit on the highway except for General Motors cars and trucks, and they can go 172 in a semi. And that's what's happened with the Halliburton loophole. It's really--it became basically Halliburton's right to pollute and poison. And the most dangerous part of that is not just what happened to the drinking water but happened to the political process by buying out politicians, local politicians in places like Pennsylvania to allow this stuff to happen.DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Greg.PALAST: You're very welcome.DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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