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Pump Jack in Kern County, California. Photo: Vlasta Juricek via Flickr.
Pump Jack in Kern County, California. Photo: Vlasta Juricek via Flickr.
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EPA - we demand oil and gas well pollution limits!

The Ecologist

16th May 2014

Sixty-four environmental and community groups have filed a petition to the EPA demanding federal limits on toxic air pollution from oil and gas wells which threaten the health of 150 million Americans.

Oil and gas wells release chemicals that have clearly and definitely been linked to health harms from nose bleeds and head aches to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease.

A coalition of 64 local, state and national groups have filed a petition urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health by setting pollution limits on oil and gas wells and associated equipment in population centers around the US.

In recent years, the pace of oil and gas drilling has increased drastically. As of 2011, oil and gas wells in the US numbered more than 1.04 million. Current estimates project that as many as 45,000 new wells could be drilled each year through 2035.  

At least 100,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollution from oil and gas well sites - such as benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene - are currently going freely into the air, available data suggest. These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.

150 million Americans are at risk

The public interest law organization Earthjustice filed the petition on behalf of local and national groups with members and constituents across the US.

"More than 150 million Americans now live near oil and gas wells or above shale areas where companies are looking to drill or engage in hydraulic fracturing, and EPA needs to set standards that restrict the hazardous air pollutants they put into the air", said Earthjustice attorney Emma Cheuse.

"Oil and gas wells release chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease, and EPA should protect our communities, especially our children, from exposure to these hazards."

Groups named on the petition include Clean Air Council, Clean Air Taskforce, Downwinders at Risk, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Community Monitor, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians.

'We need relief from toxic pollution'

The petition explains why the EPA should issue rules that would require oil and gas companies to limit toxic air pollution from oil and gas wells in urban, suburban and other populated areas as the Clean Air Act expressly provides.

"As fracking encroaches upon communities throughout the American West, we need relief from unchecked toxic air pollution", said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians. "Oil and gas wells might seem small, but together they are endangering our health and welfare in rural and urban areas alike, poisoning the very skies that make the West such an amazing place to live."

Cyrus Reed of Sierra Club's Texas Lone Star Chapter added: "It's time for the EPA to step in and do what Texas leaders have been unable to do: protect Texans from the unmitigated emissions of toxic air pollutants which poison our lungs and cause smog throughout cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Midland."

Cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease

 James Dahlgren MD of Physicians for Social Responsibility emphasized the health damage: "Oil and gas wells release chemicals that have clearly and definitely been linked to health harms from nose bleeds and head aches to cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease. 

"I've witnessed the harm these toxics cause to people and given everything we know about these pollutants, the EPA must take action to protect communities from exposure to these clear hazards."

 


 

See: the petition.

 

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