Toxic Oil and Gas Production Gets a Free Pass to Pollute

WASHINGTON (October 31, 2007) – A report released today details how the U.S. oil and gas production industry, which has significantly expanded with thousands of new oil wells in the Rocky Mountain region during the last decade, has enjoyed loopholes in federal laws that allow it to pollute the land, air and water, and release toxic substances into the environment.
The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also profiles families who have experience living near oil and gas drilling and production facilities and report suffering from rashes, swelling, blisters, sore throat, burning eyes, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, numbness, elevated heart rate, and other symptoms.
The families live or lived near facilities in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana where the industry is growing the fastest. Between 1995 and 2005, more than 60,000 new wells came into production in those states. Nationally, the number of producing gas wells increased from 270,000 to 425,000 during that time. According to the report, more than 15,000 new oil wells were completed in 2006 alone, more than in any year since the 1980s.
The pollution associated with oil and gas exploration and production include long-established carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, and other toxic chemicals like arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, mercury and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene and xylene.
Despite the close proximity of these operations to homes, schools, and other community resources, the oil and gas industry enjoys numerous exemptions from provisions of federal laws intended to protect human health and the environment, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as the Superfund law), waste management laws (RCRA), and public right-to-know provisions of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
The principal author of the report, NRDC Senior Policy Analyst Amy Mall, testifies today before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the health and environmental effects associated with oil and gas exploration and production, the loopholes in federal laws that allow industry to legally pollute, and the technologies readily available to control pollution and minimize toxic waste.
“ Many people who live near oil and gas operationsexperience the kinds of symptoms known to be linked to the toxic substances found in oil and gas or the chemical additives used to produce them,” Mall says. The report, “Drilling Down: Protecting Western Communities from the Health and Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Production,” provides a comprehensive assessment of these loopholes that allow oil and gas companies to continue polluting despite the risks.
“Affordable pollution solutions are already available. It’s past time for Congress to close the loopholes and eliminate the privilege to pollute,” says Mall.