Why you should be upset about “upset” emissions

ExxonMobil Refinery, Baytown TX
ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas

Kristen Lombardi, the best reporter I ever worked with, has a horrifying new report on an environmental hazard you’ve probably never heard of before — “upset” emissions, accidental and/or unplanned dumping of toxic chemicals that is underreported precisely because it is accidental and/or unplanned.

A Boston Phoenix alumna who’s now on staff at the Center for Public Integrity, Lombardi finds that the miserable consequences of this dumping is particularly acute in the unregulated business paradise that is Texas and Louisiana.

“Nobody really understands what’s being dumped on them,” a former resident of Baytown, Texas — home of a massive ExxonMobil petrochemical complex — tells Lombardi. “It’s an invisible kind of poison that’s being rained down.”

Photo (cc) by Roy Luck and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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Cape Wind and the high cost of fossil fuels

Boston Herald business reporter Jay Fitzgerald today has the latest in his series of reports on the cost of Cape Wind. Fitzgerald finds that the high price of Cape Wind energy will be borne mainly by those who live and work a long way from the offshore turbines.

Meanwhile, Boston Globe environmental reporter Beth Daley yesterday delved into the planning process behind Cape Wind, which grew out of then-candidate Deval Patrick’s support for the project in 2006. It seems clear from Daley’s reporting that state officials either could have done more to keep the costs down or were taken by surprise.

Good journalism? Absolutely. Yet both stories skip over a crucial fact. The cost of fossil fuel is heavily subsidized. The oil, gas and coal industries do not have to pay for the pollution they dump into the environment, especially the massive carbon-dioxide emissions that already appear to be causing significant climate change. And that’s just the beginning, as Cape Wind activists Barbara Hill and Matthew Pawa observe in this commentary.

It’s similar to the cost of cheap food — factor in the cost of pollution from factory farms and from the medical costs of eating highly processed industrial food, and it doesn’t look so cheap anymore.