Oklahoma: reports of poisoned air from natural gas operations causing illnesses

Thomas House is a disabled veteran who lives in the rural countryside outside of Oklahoma City. He moved there in 1995 after he was disabled in the first Gulf War and retired from the Air Force. He loved the peace, quiet and clean air around his home. He tells me, however, that all that ended in late 2010, when a company began drilling for natural gas on nearby property. According to Mr. House, since the natural gas operations began, both he and his wife have experienced serious health symptoms, including headaches, rashes, nausea and vomiting, and burning eyes and throats. They sometimes have to wear face masks just to sit inside their home comfortably to watch TV. He reports that his neighbors have some health symptoms, and so do his dog and several other local dogs.

Mr. House reports that state regulators told him there is nothing they can do about toxic air emissions from the oil and gas industry. He has paid out of his own pocket to have his air tested to find out what is in his air. These air tests found hydocarbons and volatile organic compounds inside his home with the windows closed--even though he estimates that the natural gas production facilities are approximately 150 yards from his home. If he is getting this sick with the gas wells 150 yards away, imagine what the air is like near the wells.

There have been reports of serious air contamination and related health concerns near oil and gas operations across the country, including Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, California, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and West Virginia. I am sorry to add Oklahoma to the list. This is more evidence that Congress must close the loophole in the Clean Air Act for toxic oil and gas emissions. Please write to your Representative in Washington and ask them to co-sponsor the BREATHE Act (Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects Act). The BREATHE Act was introduced by Congressmen Jared Polis, Maurice Hinchey and Rush Holt to ensure that the oil and gas industry abides by the same restrictions on toxic air pollutants, like cancer-causing benzene, as any other industry, and to add dangerous hydrogen sulfide to the list of toxic air pollutants limited by the Clean Air Act. And while you’re at it, you can ask them to co-sponsor the FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act) to ensure federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act and close the Halliburton Loophole. We make it easy to write your elected officials with links on our website.