Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Earthworks, FracTracker Alliance Release New Online Oil & Gas Threat Map; Find Natural Gas Facilities, Wells Near You

On May 24, a new geospatial analysis released by Earthworks and built in cooperation with FracTracker Alliance shows that 17,300,696 people, including 3,941,254 children under 18, reside within a half-mile health radius of active oil and gas wells, distribution and production facilities. 

In total, 213,794 square miles -- an area larger than Texas -- are within that radius.

“The Oil & Gas Threat Map highlights the shockingly large numbers of Americans impacted by drilling pollution. Almost a million residents of my Texas county, about half the population, live less than half a mile from oil and gas operations,” said Liveable Arlington’s Executive Director and Tarrant County resident, Ranjana Bhandari.  “The EPA must act with great urgency to protect them by issuing and enforcing stringent rules to drastically reduce toxic pollution from existing drilling as we rapidly transition to clean energy and end new fracking.

“This is the only way to reduce health impacts for extraction communities, and slow down the worst climate effects of fracking,” said Bhandari.

This analysis comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalizes their widely supported proposed safeguards to reduce methane climate emissions and associated toxic air pollution from new and existing oil and gas production facilities. 

EPA is also preparing to propose a supplemental rule later this year to end routine flaring, close loopholes for smaller leak-prone wells, and encourage citizen monitoring. 

“This map shows 17 million living, breathing reasons to strengthen EPA’s methane proposal. Pollution prone oil and gas wells should not be exempt from frequent monitoring, and no company should be able to burn off methane as waste,” said Earthworks’ Policy Director, Lauren Pagel.

“But no matter how strong these rules are, climate justice during a climate emergency means using every tool in the toolbox including declaring a National Emergency on climate change,” said Pagel.

In the United States, oil and gas production is the largest industrial methane polluter, a greenhouse gas at least 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. 

Peer-reviewed science shows that toxic pollutants released along with methane from oil and gas production facilities puts people at risk for cancer, respiratory illness, fetal defects, blood disorders, and neurological problems ––and that risk increases for children and the elderly. 

“Living in close proximity to oil and gas development is a threat to public health,” said Anne C. Epstein, MD, FACP, Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Sleep Medicine, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Associate Professor, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.  

“Health research shows that the closer you live and the more you are exposed to oil and gas development, the higher your risk of exposure to toxic air pollution, and the higher your risk of serious heart disease, respiratory disease, and leukemia,” explained Epstein.  “Seniors are more likely to die, and babies are more likely to be born with congenital heart disease and with complications of pregnancy.  

“The Oil & Gas Threat Map demonstrates a shockingly large number of people whose health is at risk due to the expansion of oil and gas facilities.”

What It Can Find Near You

The Oil and Gas Threat Map displays information about those living within a half mile of oil and gas facilities across the country. 

Although scientific literature shows that health impacts are also associated at distances greater than a half-mile, the map conservatively uses a half-mile because it is the distance at which these impacts have been most clearly correlated.  

In addition to the data that the Oil and Gas Threat Map presents, residents can enter their own (or any) address to see if they live within the threat radius.

“The Oil & Gas Threat Map is a comprehensive tool allowing for policy makers and the public to better understand who is being impacted by polluting oil and gas operations, and to promote environmental justice using these insights,” said FracTracker Alliance’s Manager of Data & Technology, Matt Kelso.  “This map was crafted using the finest resolution available to estimate affected populations and then summarized by county, allowing a better understanding of populations that must live in close proximity to this industry, including information on traditionally marginalized populations such as children and communities of color.”

Visit the Oil & Gas Threat Map website to learn more about natural gas facilities near you.  

[Posted: May 24, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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