Grand Bois and "NOW"

While in the Louisiana Senate in 1998, I represented a small, mostly Native American, community named Grand Bois.  An oilfield waste disposal facility had been constructed adjacent to the town and trucks with thousands of gallons of highy toxic materials were being delivered to the site.  

People driving near this facility had to raise their windows and turn off their air conditioners when they passed because the fumes were so noxious. Local residents had far more serious complaints.

When I was elected to the Louisiana Senate in 1996, I became responsible for representing the citizens of Grand Bois.  What I learned in a short time was the following:

 In 1976, the U.S. Congress created the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  This legislation gave the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility for regulating the Handling, Transportation and Storage of Hazardous Materials.  The oil and gas industry protested and obtained an exemption to the regulations, while promising that there be a study performed to verify their position on the safety of these materials.

The study was performed during the Reagan administration and it indicated that oilfield waste was safe.  Congress then passed legislation creating a new class of waste called NOW, or Non-Hazardous Oilfield Waste.  The legislation basically said that anything that was the result of the Exploration and Production of Petroleum Products was non-hazardous by DEFINITION.

Because of the plight of this mostly Native American community (Grand Bois), I got a quick baptism in the politics of the Oil and Gas Industry.

Ed Bradley (CBS-60 Minutes) did a one hour special on this subject titled Town Under Siege. In his special he interviewed the then Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Carol Browner.  Ms. Browner stated UNEQUIVOCALLY that certain oilfield waste was harmful and that the legislation that stated otherwise should be repealed.

Carla Greathouse, the woman who performed the study, stated in the same program that the actual findings of her study had indicated that certain streams of oilfield waste were toxic.   She also confirmed that the study presented to Congress had been altered and falsified.

Until the present, the category of NOW still exists.  Several years ago the EPA felt compelled to issue a pamphlet explaining that some highly toxic oilfield waste is still referred to as NOW (Non-Hazardous Oilfield Waste.)

Utilizing this loophole, toxic materials from the Deepwater Horizon debacle have been delivered to Grand Bois and the citizens of this small town are beseiged by the oil and gas industry once again.


© Michael Robichaux 2013