North Dakota is in the bull’s eye and the pace is devastating our lives and our land. The examples that follow show how the oil industry behaves abroad. I see no difference in how they behave abroad and at home in North Dakota, with one exception. We have not seen murders of opponents of the fast-paced oil development.
The message is when the damage is big enough; the oil company will buy the court and even a former presidential candidate, Bob Dole. Chevron hired him to lobby for passage of a law that would bar the execution and collection of the Ecuadorian court judgment. That effort failed so now there are multiple proceedings in New York District courts to obstruct the judicial process that has begun in Ecuador. Chevron has also undertaken proceedings which appear to be a “slap suit” and if so, has attacked the First Amendment rights of its critics.(http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/jus/jus/JUS5540/h13/undervisningsmateriale/chevron-presentation1.pdf)
The Back Story: In the Amazon, Texaco, now merged with Chevron oil, operated without concern for the environment or local residents. The company deliberately dumped gallons of toxic waste into rivers and streams and abandoned hundreds of on line open air pits. There is no question that these destructive practices occurred. The question is who is going to pay for them? The oil companies have sold their interests to a successor entity and have thus far avoided collection of the multibillion dollar judgment imposed in that South American countries own courts.
The message is that big money and government collaborate to the exclusion of the best interests of the people whose lands are unfortunately perched over the oil reserve. The Niger River Delta in Nigeria is inhabited by the Ogoni people. In the late 1950s, just before independence, the British government found oil in what was once the richest cocoa growing community in the world. The rivers of the Niger Delta were not polluted then. The fish were abundant and large. Royal Dutch Shell laid pipes on the surface of the earth. The pipes leaked and even worse were tapped by thieves. Flaring gas was burned off under the canopy of jungle trees. Today, the air, land and waters of the Ogoni people are polluted. Nine Ogoni Christian environmentalists were sentenced to death by a leader who was a northern Nigerian Muslim. The oil-rich Niger Delta, especially the estuaries and even the drilling rigs offshore in the Gulf of Guinea, are now a guerrilla war zone. (http://ccrjustice.org/learn-more/faqs/shell%2526%2523039%3Bs-environmental-devastation-nigeria)
The message is that pipelines as big as the Keystone can fail dramatically. In Kazakhstan, European and American partners have built a pipeline which has proved inadequate for its corrosive fluids. As a result the $50 Billion investment to obtain 15 billion barrels of oil is sitting idle and will remain idle until at least 2017. (http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/12981-kazakhstans-kashagan-oil-fields-faces-problems-and-soaring-costs.html and http://m.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/pipeline-problems-cloud-kashagan-oil-outlook/story-e6frg9df-1226975206098?nk=5ff5f92de980295f5159eb72f317876f)
Kazakhstan has one of the world’s newest elephants, the euphemism for the largest oilfields in the world. The Tengiz Field is on the northeast shore of the Caspian Sea. Just offshore in the Kazakhstan zone of the Caspian Sea, the same formation is called the Kashagan Field. The combined zones are one of the world’s largest discoveries in the last 30 years.
Kazakhstan is a zone as large as the Louisiana Purchase. Imagine the Gulf of Mexico is the Caspian Sea and the Far East has mountains like the Rockies of Wyoming. In between are vast acres of desert grasslands and growing regions.
Kazakhstan is a nation which has a population which is 53% Kazakh, 30% Russian, 4% Ukrainian, 3% Uzbek, 3% German, 2% Tartar, and 2% Uygur. It is heavily mineralized and especially blessed with gold and cursed with radioactive minerals. During the Soviet era mining was accelerated with little regard for protecting land or watersheds from tailings piles.
When I taught there, my class of law students consisted of 12 women one man. All of the women feared that they would give birth to deformed children. They had good reason to fear. The Soviet Socialist health system still exists. The system is brutal. Out of one cohort of 30 first time mothers, 25 were ordered to submit to immediate and late term abortions. The medical probabilities were that a high percentage of the 25 pre-born children would have manifested birth defects. Explosions frequently occur in the antiquated Stalinist metallurgical facilities of our university town called Ust Kamenorgorsk. The five mothers who were allowed to give birth were lucky. The three possibilities for their good luck are; 1) They knew someone in power; 2) They lived upwind from the factory which suffered the Beryllium release: or 3) They convinced the doctors that they had raised their own food and not bought food from vendors who were under the Beryllium plume.