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The Drill in the Backyard
Oil and gas production takes a toll on Western communities.

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Deb Thomas tells her story in this excerpt from NRDC's new film, Voices of the West.

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Domestic oil and natural gas production has soared in recent years as our demand for energy continues to rise. Much of this growth is occurring in the Rocky Mountain region, where well pads, waste pits and giant compressors mar the legendary western landscape of wide vistas and soaring peaks.

Oil and gas production is a dirty process, and many of the stages involved can pollute the surrounding air, water and land, as well as pose risks to the health of people living near production facilities. Symptoms often appear soon after drilling begins, and some people report they are forced from their homes due to gas fumes, undrinkable water or severe illness. Many people do not own the rights to oil and gas underlying their land, and cannot stop drilling from happening even on their own property.

Despite the obvious risks, oil and gas companies enjoy numerous exemptions from federal laws designed to protect human health and the environment, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. It's a regulatory void unique to this industry, and one that the federal government can fill by closing legal loopholes and requiring industry to adopt available, affordable technologies to limit pollution.

The photo essay above explores the human and environmental effects of unchecked drilling in the American West.

Based on Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Production, an October 2007 NRDC report.

last revised 10.30.07

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