This year, three billion gallons of waste were injected into California’s underground aquifers. Eighty millions pounds of toxic grey goop were spilled in a North Carolina waterway. Clouds of thick, black, oily dust coated children’s playground equipment in Chicago’s southeast side.
Like every year, 2014 saw a wide range of environmental pollution from fossil fuel development. But there was no BP-scale well blowout, no Lac-Mégantic-sized crude oil train explosion. Instead, many of this year’s major fossil fuel disasters came from a more insidious source — not the fuels themselves, but the waste products they create. These are essentially the leftovers from fossil fuel development: wastewater from oil and gas drilling, coal ash from coal burning, and petroleum coke from tar sands refining.