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This elementary school in Colorado is within 2 miles of dozens of active oil and gas wells. Photo: Lighthouse Solar
A Newsy analysis released last week found that more than 600 U.S. schools are located within 500 feet of an active oil or gas well, and more than 1.4 million people across the U.S. live within the 500-foot danger zone. Research from the Colorado School of Public Health has found that people living within 500 feet of an oil or gas facility have a cancer risk that is 8 times higher than the EPA’s accepted threshold.
Why This Matters: Kids should not have to go to school near active oil and gas wells with toxic air emissions that put them at higher risk for cancer and respiratory problems. Some of these same wells are in densely populated urban areas — in places like Los Angeles and Denver — where tens of thousands are also at risk. Even with state and local zoning rules, many areas allow oil and gas wells to be located dangerously close to homes and schools. Because of the increase in oil and gas fracking, many more wells are located in or near populated areas.
In Weld County — the center of the state’s oil and gas activity and home to more than 23,000 active wells — that tension has converged at a school called Bella Romero Academy.
Wellheads are planned for within 830 feet of the Bella Romero property.
Bella Romero — an overwhelmingly black and Latino school — became the Oil and Gas Commission’s site for drilling after a proposal to put the operation near a mostly white school received strong protests from parents.
Colorado is not alone. Indeed, according to the Newsy study, Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have the highest percentages of their students attending school within 500 feet of an active well.
To Go Deeper: For state-by-state information on high-risk zones near drilling, click here.
Gas flaring was responsible for Texas’s recent increase in oil refinery pollution, but it’s hardly a new problem. We’re less than a decade away from the UN’s goal of Zero Routine Flaring by 2030, but refineries still flare 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, releasing 400 million tons of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Why This Matters: Companies have historically practiced gas flaring as a convenient and inexpensive way to “dispose of ” gas that was extracted alongside oil, as opposed to storing paying to store it.
Despite over four million Texans losing power during the recent deep freeze, oil refineries released an increased amount of pollution into the air. In a state that leads the nation in both power production and carbon emissions, experts say that failure to winterize power infrastructure resulted in harmful releases of toxic air pollution.
Why This Matters: Texas is the nation’s leading power producer, and to achieve this, the state has heavily deregulated not only its power grid but the fossil fuel industry as well.
People riding American subway lines are exposed to air pollution that’s worse than a bad day in Beijing, according to new research that studied subway networks in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and D.C.
Why this Matters: We hope Secretary Pete takes note because this is an environmental justice issue.
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