How Close Is Too Close for Oil & Gas Operations?
A recent report from Earthworks, a national environmental group, shows that approximately 2.3 million residents in Texas are living dangerously close to oil and gas facilities. Research indicates that the proximity to oil and gas wells, compressors, and processors could cause potential health problems for these Texans.
Millions of residents are living within just a one-half mile radius of nearly 400,000 active oil and gas facilities across the state. Equally concerning, 904 schools and 78 medical facilities are within that same radius, raising serious health concerns for a more vulnerable population.
Tarrant County residents are facing even more health concerns, with more than 51,000 residents and several schools located just half a mile from 326 oil and gas facilities.
Alan Septof of Earthworks, commented that “There is a bunch of research that shows that proximity to oil and gas facilities is linked to health impacts and it’s most clearly linked at a half mile or less.”
The Repercussions of the Oil & Gas Boom
Texas is a state known for its oil and gas industry. While this may be a crown jewel for the state, it has also raised health and environmental concerns. Just last month, the EPA submitted new rules that are designed to cut back on methane emissions, which are often associated with oil and gas production. This was done to help improve public health and limit pollution that is frequently linked to serious diseases, such as cancer.
However, those in the oil and gas industry argue that Texas’ oil and gas industry is one of the most closely regulated in the nation, with billions of dollars being invested to improve emission control technology. The EPA has reported a 79% drop in methane emissions since 2005.
The oil and gas threat has been at the front of many Texan’s minds as Denton became the first city in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing. Despite their bold move to try to protect residents, House Bill 40 was passed by Texas lawmakers in 2015. This law now prohibits cities from imposing bans like this, limiting their control over what oil and gas operations can take place in their city limits.
What Does the Map Mean for Residents?
The environmental group gathered information from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the Oil and Gas Journal to develop their threat map. On a national level, 12.4 million people are reportedly living within a dangerous radius to oil and gas facilities or related operations. The map only looks at 1.2 million active wells in Texas, as those are the mostly likely to be governed by federal and state laws to help curb dangerous methane pollution.
However, the group reminded the public that the map does not mean that those living within the half-mile radius are going to suffer health consequences, only that there is an increased threat. Likewise, those living just outside the radius are not necessarily safe by being just a few miles out instead of half a mile. Simply put, environmentalists and residents alike are becoming more concerned as they see drilling operations creeping out of rural areas and closer to neighborhoods, schools, and hospitals.
You can check out the Texas Oil & Gas Threat Map here.