Culture

After undermining democracy, Facebook is directly hurting the environment too

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Facebook is an unfriendly and unsightly neighbor for many on the quiet Oregon coast.

Zeb Andrews/Moment Open/Getty Images

Remote beach towns seem to be prime targets for massive tech companies seeking to expand their empires. In May, reports emerged of how nightmarish it was to live by Elon Musk's SpaceX launch site in Texas. Now, according to a lengthy and distressing report by The Oregonian, Facebook is creating similar environmental hell for the residents of a quiet community in the northern part of Oregon known as Tierra Del Mar.

It's the company's extensive undersea fiber optic cable project that has made life unbearable and ugly for locals. The stretch of the beach town was known for its tranquility and silence, removed from the more hectic and crowded parts of the state. But thanks to Facebook's cable operations, neighbors have worried about noise pollution, abandoned equipment on the Oregon coast seafloor, and the impact of these man made projects on local bird species like the plover and the marbled murrelet.

As studies have shown repeatedly before, noise pollution caused by drilling can disturb birds out of their native homes and force them to undergo premature and unplanned migration. None of these worries, though, persuaded Facebook to rethink its presence and purpose in Tierra Del Mar.

The mess left behind — Although locals in the beach town attempted to stop Facebook from conducting drilling and construction through a town-level campaign, their pleas were left unheard. According to The Oregonian, Facebook eventually abandoned the project and left behind a monstrous amount of environmental mess in the form of pipes running about 1,100 feet long and 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid on the seafloor.

The company has shown no indication of retrieving the abandoned waste, despite being notified about it. A spokesperson for the company told The Oregonian that the company "determined that there is no negative environmental or public health impact from the drill head remaining at the site." But time and again, various environmental studies have shown that drilling and abandoned equipment can affect marine life, particularly their ability to navigate the waters if the installation is poor and faulty. Or in this case, messy and unaccounted for.

Facebook has major answering to do — The good news is that Facebook won't be let off anytime soon. According to the report, the Department of State Lands has categorized Facebook's abandoned equipment as an unauthorized storage decision, and has given it 30 days to reach an official agreement with Oregon to address the equipment. Additionally, Facebook has 180 days to remove the mess or it has to apply for a permit to keep it there.

If Oregon truly wants to nip the possibility of similar mishaps, it should consider an overhaul of its own state rules around laying fiber optic cable. At this moment, they're pretty loose. There's vague language around environmental concerns and no mentioning of financial penalties for companies that break the law. In such conditions, it makes sense that Facebook found Tierra Del Mar optimal for its sloppy project.