Report: Texas town offers cautionary tale on oil and gas drilling emissions

Based on the experiences of one small town in Texas, residents of the Colorado Western Slope community of Battlement Mesa are right to be worried about the potential air-quality impacts of a proposal to drill up to 200 natural gas wells in their area.

According to the Dallas Morning News Denton Record-Chronicle, the Denton County town has seen significant health impacts from toxic emissions associated with oil and gas drilling. A report produced by the Texas chapter of the nonprofit Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project found that 61 percent of the health problems reported by 31 Dish residents were traced to emissions.

dish, texas

Despite what Denver-based Antero Resources claims will be extraordinary steps to mitigate emissions, many residents of Battlement Mesa, a community of 5,000 along Interstate 70, want a Health Impact Assessment conducted before the company is allowed put up to 10 well pads in and around town.

Garfield County, which retains regulatory authority over the former Exxon company town, says it may fund a study that would address, among other things, baseline air quality prior to drilling activity. Many of Battlement Mesa’s residents are elderly retirees.

State officials who also must sign off on Antero’s Comprehensive Drilling Plan were noncommittal on the issue of a Health Impact Study, but said they are aware of citizen concerns.

The Texas report found several illnesses related to emissions that far exceeded acceptable state levels: “from nasal irritation and nausea caused by benzene and xylene to vision impairment, muscle pain and weakness caused by sulfides.”

Some of those illnesses sound similar to complaints detailed in the documentary “Split Estate,” which examined the health impacts of drilling activity in Garfield County, Colorado, and northwestern New Mexico.

Edit Note: The Dallas Morning News is a sister newspaper to the Denton Record-Chronicle. Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, author of the Texas newspaper report, is an area reporter for the Chronicle. The Dallas Morning News merely reprinted her story.

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