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Energy & Environment

Enviromental Groups Linking Oil & Gas Drilling To Asthma In Texas

Air pollution from oil & gas drilling is making asthma worse in Texas cities including Houston. That’s according to some environmental groups. Not so says the oil & gas industry.


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Drilling rig on Houston's southside
Drilling rig on Houston’s southside

Environmental groups have posted on the web what they call the Oil & Gas Threat Map.

The interactive map locates where the groups say two million Texans are breathing air polluted by emissions from drilling sites.

"We are simply showing the health impact that can be directly attributed to emissions from the oil and gas industry," says Lesley Fleischman, technical analysts with the Clean Air Task Force (additionally, the groups Earthworks and FracTracker Alliance helped create the map).

Screen grab of Oil and Gas Threat Map
Screen grab of Oil and Gas Threat Map

Fleischman says methane and other gases that escape from some 400,000 well sites statewide helps create ozone in cities miles away, the "smog" linked to causing asthma attacks.

"For the effected children and families this is a very real impact," Fleischman told News 88.7.

The oil & gas industry criticized the report can be "debunked" with data from Texas environmental regulators.

"If you eliminated all oil and gas development in North Texas, you would not even put a dent in ozone levels," says Steve Everley, a spokesperson for North Texans for Natural Gas, an industry group.

Everley points to another study just released this week, not by environmental groups, but by scientists at the Univeristy of Texas Arlington. Published in an research journal, the study found vapors of worrisome chemicals like benzene leaking from well sites but at levels considered safe for short-term exposure.

"So at a certain point you have to ask who are we going to trust? Are we going to trust a peer reviewed study ... or are we going to trust the environmental groups who have said on numerous occasions they just want to shutdown oil and gas drilling?” Everley says.

Those environmental groups stand by their findings which they say point to the need for strict enforcement of pollution regulations on the oil & gas industry.