June 16, 2016
Today, Pennsylvania environmental groups and residents impacted by oil and gas development welcomed the introduction of a new tool that maps the locations of the 103,984 oil and gas facilities operating in Pennsylvania and the populations, schools, and hospitals within a half mile radius of those facilities. The tool, OilAndGasThreatMap.com, was created by Earthworks and Clean Air Task Force and was released on June 14, 2016.
Peer-reviewed science shows that living near polluting oil and gas facilities is associated with negative health impacts, including fetal defects and respiratory ailments. Pennsylvania, the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas, has been the site of several of these studies. One study from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 showed elevated risk of low birthweights to babies born near oil and gas drilling, while another study from Johns Hopkins University concluded that pregnant women in Pennsylvania who live in the most active natural gas production areas are 40% more likely to have a preterm birth and 30% more likely to have a high risk pregnancy. That same summer a study from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University conducted in Pennsylvania found that people who live near natural gas infrastructure have higher rates of hospitalizations, particularly for cardiovascular problems.
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“This map should make it impossible for policymakers to ignore the incredible number of people in Pennsylvania who are impacted by oil and gas pollution,” said Joseph Otis Minott Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the Clean Air Council. “Pennsylvania residents have disproportionately borne the burden of health impacts from a recklessly under-regulated oil and gas industry, and I hope both the Wolf Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will use this resource to develop smart, strong regulations that protect people from air pollution from existing oil and gas facilities.”
“This map is a stark illustration of the growing public health crisis related to shale oil and gas development, in Pennsylvania and nationwide,” said Raina Rippel, Director of Environmental Health Project. “America needs a wakeup call - health impacts and exposures are increasingly well documented, and far too many people live in harm's way near these type of industrial activities.”
“After years of no one listening to our concerns, having policymakers ignore the facts, and being called a radical for advocating for protections from the health hazards of oil and gas drilling, there is no more denying the threat we live with in Washington County,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, a mother of four who lives in Scenery Hill, where she is surrounded by gas wells. “The health impacts on our children can be seen clearly now. Just look at the map.”
“The map is very important for future generations and our children,” said Jack and Darleen Odell, residents of West Pike Run Township who live within 800 feet of a well pad. “People planning on moving to the area may change their minds once they see the closeness of the well sites and the threat zones they could be living in.”
The Oil and Gas Threat Map displays information about those living within a half mile of oil and gas facilities in Pennsylvania and other states. Although scientific literature shows that health impacts are also associated at distances greater than one half mile, the creators of the map conservatively use one half mile because it is the distance at which these impacts have been most clearly correlated. The Oil and Gas Threat Map will also display data about the risk of increased cancer and respiratory health rates at the county level. In addition to the data that the Oil and Gas Threat Map presents, users can enter their own address to see if they live in a threat zone.
To access the map, visit oilandgasthreatmap.com.
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