New toxic air data from oil and gas operations, this time from the Four Corners

Recent air sampling from the Four Corners region in New Mexico and Colorado has found harmful levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the region’s air. The air sampling was conducted by neighbors of natural gas development operations who formed a "Bucket Brigade" of citizen scientists taking scientifically credible samples using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methods and laboratories.

Air samples were taken near natural gas refineries and processing facilities, a surface waste disposal facility, and a natural gas well and compressor site. Three air samplings detected more than 20 different toxic chemicals.

Mark Chernaik, Ph.D., an independent environmental health expert, stated: “Acrylonitrile, benzene, methylene chloride and ethylbenzene are carcinogens found in the air samples. Levels of these chemicals exceed the level determined to cause an increased risk of cancer.”

Local rancher Tweeti Blancett made an excellent point: “We know there are win-win solutions available to solve these problems, yet industry is clearly not using them. The technology is readily available for industry to capture dangerous air emissions from many oil and gas operations. In many cases, these air pollution control methods are very economical for companies to adopt. If companies do not adopt these methods voluntarily, they should be required to do so to protect human health and the environment”

There are over 35,000 natural gas wells, and associated compression and refining in the Four Corners region. The Bucket Brigade was formed in partnership with the San Juan Citizens Alliance and Global Community Monitor.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

Join Us