Efforts to reduce the potentially harmful consequences of oil and gas drilling sometimes concentrate on a specific measure, such as B. significant setbacks, the minimum permissible distance between wells and houses, schools, and other sensitive places. A group of public health specialists from several colleges and organisations, however, advocates a multi-pronged approach to adopting laws to reduce the risks of gas operations and oil in a July 6 comment in Environmental Research Letters. They develop a decision-making framework that they believe will facilitate the implementation of further public health protection measures.
“Because oil and gas development can emit multiple hazards, multiple solutions are required to protect communities and the environment,” said Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and an associate professor of epidemiology (environmental health sciences), environment, and chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University. “Our article provides a framework for politicians, business leaders, and community leaders to consider which method or combination of techniques would be most beneficial in a specific circumstance.” The expansion of the oil and gas development (OGD) sector has put millions of Americans in the line of various risks connected with OGD activities.
Nearly one million oil and gas wells were operational in 2020, and a 2017 study indicated that 17.6 million Americans lived within 1,600 metres (1 mile) of an active oil or gas well. The evidence that OGD contributes to air pollution, water contamination, noise, psychological stress, and health concerns continues to rise.
Several studies have found links between living near oil and gas activities and higher risk of bad pregnancy outcomes, cancer incidence, hospitalizations, and asthma. Some drilling-related operations have been positioned in underserved neighbourhoods, compounding their environmental and social problems.
The authors examine the advantages and disadvantages of different control mechanisms in their study. They explain how certain measures, such as engineering controls, which are typically thought to be quite effective at capturing pollutants at the source, may be insufficient due to the complex array of potential emissions, such as noise, air pollution, greenhouse gases, and increased local truck traffic. Reduced new drilling and proper discontinuation of active and inactive oil and gas wells, on the other hand, would be most beneficial since it eliminates the source of practically all environmental stresses.
“It’s important to note that increasing setbacks, or the distance between a home and an oil and gas drilling site, does nothing to mitigate the effects of climate change or regional ozone,” said Lisa McKenzie, a co-author of the paper and associate professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Campus’s Colorado School of Public Health.
“Although phasing out drilling may sound like a significant change from the existing quo, it’s crucial to note that several states and municipalities, such as Los Angeles, have already adopted a moratorium on all new oil and gas wells,” Deziel said.
The authors advise scientists and practitioners to embrace a more holistic approach.
Rachel Morello-Frosch, senior author of the commentary and professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, hopes the paper – and its recommendations – will be useful for risk managers, decision-makers, and community members alike, and encourage interventions that more holistically protect community environmental health.
Joan A. Casey (Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health), Thomas E. McKone (University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health), Jill E. Johnston (Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California), David J.X. Gonzalez (University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health), and Seth Shonkoff are also co-authors (PSE Healthy Energy).
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