Backyard drilling -- not just in the Rockies

I used to live in Los Angeles near the famous La Brea tar pits. It turns out I lived above an old oilfield that had been drilled in the early 1900s.  I now live in Colorado, but recently I've heard from Los Angeles residents who live not too far from where I did.  They're concerned about new drilling in their community.  One person told me three wells would be less than 50 feet from his house.

Health concerns have already surfaced elsewhere in the Los Angeles area.  In 2006, extremely strong odors from a drilling operation prompted Los Angeles County to institute a temporary moratorium on drilling new wells in the Baldwin Hills area so that officials could assess current regulations.  In Beverly Hills, families are suing over health impacts from wells adjacent to the high school; journalist Joy Horowitz wrote a book about the issue.  There are also concerns in the Wilmington area.

Community drilling, sometimes called "urban drilling," is causing alarm elsewhere in our country.  Earlier this year, a drill rig was set up in the courtyard of an apartment complex in Mentor, Ohio and the law did not require that apartment residents be notified.  In Bainbridge Township, Ohio, a 2007 gas leak caused one house to explode, is threatening another, and is reported to have contaminated the well water for at least 27 other families.

In Booneville, Arkansas, residents report that drilling has led to contamination of their well water with large amounts of benzene and diesel.  Previous posts of mine discuss contamination in Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain region.

'Setbacks' are restrictions on how close a well or associated equipment can be to a home, school, stream, water well, or other protected place.  Some cities in Texas have a setback for oil and gas wells of 1,000 feet for residences, public parks, schools, hospitals, religious institutions, water wells, or public buildings.  In many areas of Colorado, however, the setback from homes is only 150 feet -- although that may change with new regulations.  Better regulation is needed to ensure protection of human health and the environment, starting at the federal level with the closing of loopholes in environmental laws discussed in the NRDC report, "Drilling Down."