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Nature Environmental Conservation & Protection

Hidden Scourge

Exposing the Truth about Fossil Fuel Industry Spills

by (author) Kevin P. Timoney

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Environmental Conservation & Protection, Ecology, Environmental Policy
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    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
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This book began when Kevin Timoney noticed a suspicious pattern in data reported by the Alberta Energy Regulator. For tens of thousands of spills, recovery volumes exactly matched the reported spill volumes. In short, the data were too good to be true. And so began a search for the scientific truth about spills. In western North America crude oil and saline water spills – both small and large – occur daily and cause permanent damage to ecosystems that remains largely hidden from public view.
Hidden Scourge takes the reader on a journey into a covert world of energy industry spills with environmental incident data from over 100,000 spills in Alberta, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana, and the Northwest Territories. Timoney evaluates the truthfulness of regulatory reporting in light of evidence from peer-reviewed scientific data, original field observations, industrial and government reports, interviews, and documents obtained under freedom of information. In stark contrast to a halcyon picture of prosperity and "world-class" environmental management, the reality is rampant destruction of biodiversity, persistent soil contamination, failed reclamation, and thousands of undocumented spills.
Hidden Scourge grounds existential debates about climate and ecological crises in evidence of how hydrocarbon-based economies change the ecosystems where fossil fuels are extracted. The science is clear: the industry consistently damages ecosystems wherever it operates. If energy-industry regulators cannot act independently, honestly, and in the public interest, they profoundly undermine democratic institutions. The result is a legacy of contaminated sites that will burden future generations with great uncertainty and cost.

About the author

Kevin P. Timoney, ecologist, researcher, teacher, and writer, is committed to solving complex environmental and ecological problems. He has devoted the past 20 years to studying the ecology and dynamics of The Peace-Athabasca Delta. He lives in Ardrossan, Alberta.

Kevin P. Timoney's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“[Hidden Scourge] reads like a detective story, but it’s not for the faint of heart … a damning indictment of governments and regulators, especially in Alberta, for abandoning their duty to protect the environment and ensure industry operates in the interest of the public.” Albertaviews

“Kevin Timoney has produced an excoriating account of exceptional regulatory incompetence and negligence in the management of oil industry spills, which inspires shock and anger while being an almost confusingly enjoyable and enlightening read. More often than not, the first thing that companies and governments announce when a major spill is revealed is that there is no evidence of environmental damage, and that the cleanup will be complete. Read this work and you’ll never believe those words again.” William F. Donahue, environmental consultant

“A must-read for oil historians and environmental historians seeking to understand the ecological impacts of fossil fuel industry spills.” H-Environment

"This is a remarkable investigation that should open many eyes, and perhaps many hearts." Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"This book is bound to become a seminal work for anyone concerned with the impact of the fossil fuel industry on our land, health, and governments. Kevin Timoney reveals the environmental regulation of the oil industry as a national embarrassment." Kevin Taft, author of Oil's Deep State

"This book uniquely documents the critical role that regulators in both Canada and the US, charged with protecting the environment and preventing or mitigating spills, played as enablers. Regulators who could or should have known better endorsed statements of "no environmental harm" and allowed perpetrators to get off if they simply said "every effort is being made to prevent such spills in the future." Apart from documenting such deceit, the author provides photographic accounts of his ecological assessments, documenting long-term changes in habitats impacted by oil. The book features many color photographs illustrating oil-impacted ecosystems as compared to similar but unimpacted ecosystems. Recommended. All readers." CHOICE

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