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Millions of Ohioans Living Near Toxic Emissions

More than 3 million Ohioans live near an oil or gas drilling operation. (Daniel Foster/Wikimedia)
More than 3 million Ohioans live near an oil or gas drilling operation. (Daniel Foster/Wikimedia)
June 15, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- About one in four Ohioans lives near an oil or gas operation, with toxic emissions that can be threats to health and the environment. A new tool released today by Earthworks pinpoints the locations of more than 90,000 oil and gas facilities in the Buckeye State, along with the neighborhoods, schools and hospitals within a half-mile radius.

Laura Burns of Mansfield, Ohio organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, said the map allows Ohioans to learn more about their potential cancer and respiratory risks from oil and gas emissions.

"This is not something abstract; this is really, truly right in our backyards," she said. "The air blows all over Ohio. Just because it's not in your backyard, it doesn't mean that it's not in the backyard of somebody that you love, and that we aren't going to be feeling the effects."

According to the map, nearly 12.5 million people live within a half-mile radius of the 1.2 million active gas and oil wells, compressors or processor stations across the nation. That includes more than 3 million Ohioans.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized a rule to reduce methane emissions released by new or modified oil and gas operations, which is expected to prevent 11 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions by 2025. It's a good first step, said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, but he contended that standards are needed for current facilities.

"The lion's share of these emissions come from the existing oil and gas infrastructure, and EPA has committed to issue regulations on that portion of the industry, those existing sources," he said. "We'll need that in order to reduce these cancer risks."

Schneider said the map, online at oilandgasthreatmap.com, shows that in 238 counties in 21 states, including Carroll County in Ohio, people face a cancer risk that exceeds the EPA's level of concern.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH