Over a quarter-million Coloradans, including 74,000 children are threatened by their proximity to oil and gas production, according to a national analysis of oil and gas operations
The analysis, released last month, was conducted by two environmental advocacy groups, EarthWorks and FracTracker Alliance, and presents its data through an interactive “Oil and Gas Threat Map” — which can be found here — that visually shows the number of houses and schools near oil and gas operations.
The data found that 288,898 Coloradans live within a half-mile “health threat radius” of active oil and gas wells, compressors, or processors. Those who live within the threat radius have cause for concern about health impacts from oil and gas pollution, according to the report.
According to numerous peer-reviewed studies, being within a half-mile radius of oil and gas sites increases the likelihood of dealing with health impacts like birth defects, infant mortality, preterm births, blood disorders, and elevated cancer risks.
The “half-mile” distance is a conservative figure used by the analysis, as pollution from oil and gas operations, like methane emissions and other air pollutants, can impact the health of people who live as far as 150 miles away from operations, according to the report
The analysis also does not include downstream refineries or inactive wells and facilities, both of which can leak pollutants.
In the U.S. as a whole, over 17 million people, including just under 4 million children, live in the health threat radius of oil and gas operations.
Josh Eisenfeld, a campaigner for EarthWorks, said during a May press call that he hopes the map clearly shows why the U.S. should be transitioning away from fossil fuel extraction.
“This map gives the president 17 million more reasons — living, breathing reasons — to make sure that his EPA finalizes the strongest rules possible under the Clean Air Act to cut oil and gas methane and to work to end the extraction of fossil fuels,” Eisenfeld said.
In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would be taking action to cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry under the Clean Air Act.
However, a study released last week from Climate Action Tracker, another environmental advocacy group, found that the reaction to the global energy crisis portends disaster for reaching significant climate goals.
“The world is going through a major energy crisis as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the study summary read. “At the same time, the next few years are critical for climate action — a last chance to keep the 1.5°C temperature limit within reach. So far, governments have largely failed to seize their chance to rearrange their energy supplies away from fossil fuels. Instead, we are witnessing a global “gold rush” for new fossil gas production, pipelines, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. This risks locking us into another high-carbon decade and keeping the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit out of reach.”
On Thursday, Colorado oil and gas regulators approved drilling plans for over 100 oil wells in Weld County. According to the Oil and Gas Threat Map, 170,211 people in Weld County already live within the health threat radius of oil and gas operations. 46,509 of those people are under 18.
The map also supports previous research from the EPA that climate change disproportionally affects marginalized communities.