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Report Puts Human Face on Impacts of Oil and Gas Pollution

Nationally, almost 3 million children go to school or daycare within a half-mile of oil and gas facilities. (pxhere/CC BY 2.0)
Nationally, almost 3 million children go to school or daycare within a half-mile of oil and gas facilities. (pxhere/CC BY 2.0)
July 30, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are rolling back regulations for pollution from oil and gas facilities, and a new report says that's putting children at risk.

The report, from Moms Clean Air Force, lays out what it claims are the consequences of pollution from oil and gas drilling, in the words of seven women living in vulnerable communities.

Jane Worthington is a nurse from Western Pennsylvania, who said there are 23 gas wells on three well pads near the local school. Five years ago, her daughter became very sick; she tested positive for benzene exposure. And when two grandchildren moved in with her, she said they started getting sick, too.

"After coming to live with me from the Fort Cherry School District, both of them began to exhibit, within the year, symptoms of asthma,” Worthington said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released a recent study that found limited impacts to the air quality and little risk of healthy residents becoming sick from the air around the drilling sites it examined.

But critics say the testing for that study was flawed. Worthington pointed out that drilling in her area began about ten years ago - and children who were just starting school then are getting sick now.

"I know of four cases of cancer,” she said. “And the fact is, the latency period is up. Now, we're going to start seeing these illnesses."

Nationwide, almost 3 million children attend school or daycare within a half-mile of oil and gas infrastructure.

Last month, the DEP released new general permits to help control emissions from new sources. And Gov. Tom Wolf has promised regulations to stem emissions from thousands of existing sources.

Worthington said the process is taking too long.

"It's been years,” she said. “These are important. These are the ways that we can start to regulate and start to monitor. These are the things that we need."

The Moms Clean Air Force report said the oil and gas industry nationwide releases more than 8 million tons of health-harming methane, fine-particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and smog-forming volatile organic compounds into the air every year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA