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Congress Looks at Health Impacts of Oil and Gas Projects in MT

November 5, 2007

Helena, MT – Sore throats, sneezing and coughing in Montana aren't always the result of colds or allergies. According to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, these also are common reactions to chemicals released in oil and gas drilling operations. Congress is considering requiring the industry to abide by the Clean Air and Water Act -- rules from which they currently are exempt. Amy Mall, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says her organization has been keeping track of health issues in Montana with these environmental concerns in mind.

"In our report, we even highlight some people that had tumors they believe have been associated with exposure to hazardous substances released by oil and gas production."

Mall says the extent of illnesses is hard to track because companies aren't required to report the kinds of chemicals they are using, and symptoms may not show up for ten years after a person's initial exposure.

"We don't have enough monitoring and assessment in place to make sure that we are really doing everything we can to protect human health."

The industry was exempted from some federal regulations in 2005, to speed up development. Mall believes most chemicals connected to production can be controlled without slowing projects down, but the industry's response is that self-regulation is keeping chemicals in check, and that there is no hard evidence of a correlation between chemicals and illnesses.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MT