Residents of counties where oil and gas companies are now commonplace have noticed as many changes in their health as they have in their scenery. So now, environmental groups such as Earthworks are investigating the impacts these industry polluters are having on people in Texas and other states in order to keep businesses and government accountable.
Here are just some of the pollutants released by oil and gas production:
Efforts could take on added significance under the Trump administration, which has moved to halt implementation of methane regulations, a potent greenhouse gas that has 25 times the heat-trapping capability of carbon dioxide. Not only would these regulations have helped address climate change, they would also have helped stop emissions of other pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Examples of some known hazardous air pollutants include benzene, a carcinogen, which comes from burning oil. Chronic exposure to toluene, used to produce benzene, can lead to upper respiratory tract irritation, dizziness, sore throat and headaches. VOCs also have indirect health impacts when it forms chemical reactions with nitrogen oxides in sunlight and creates ground-level ozone, the main component of smog. Exposure to smog can lead to asthma, wheezing and cardiovascular effects, according to U.S. EPA data.
About 12.4 million people in the United States live within the “threat radius” — about half a mile away from active oil and gas wells, compressors, and processors, according to the Oil and Gas Threat Map compiled jointly by Earthworks, the Clean Air Task Force and FracTracker Alliance. The estimate is based on data from industry, EPA, recorded methane leaks and resident interviews. … Earthworks is aiming to go into as many of these affected areas as it can around the country. The organization has been tracking both anecdotal and empirical evidence about pollution levels from the oil and gas sector around the country as part of its Community Empowerment Project and has worked with communities to help file complaints both against the companies themselves and state environmental regulators.