Laurie Anderson from USA
I am a mom of five kids and a mechanical engineer by degree, but I turned my focus to protecting public health and safety after becoming a mom. I am a Colorado organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, and I live a half mile from a recently fracked 18-well large-scale oil and gas development site.
My community is located along Colorado’s Front Range, where we struggle with problematic air inversions where cool nighttime air traps high levels of pollution up against the Rocky Mountains and impacts our air quality along Front Range communities like mine. The Denver Metro North Front Range is currently listed in “serious” nonattainment for ground-level ozone and is slated to soon be downgraded to “severe” nonattainment as we contend with ozone originating from oil and gas sector pollution in the DJ basin combined with elevated background ground-level ozone originating outside Colorado’s borders.
My region receives frequent “Ozone Action Alerts” indicating poor air quality conditions exist in which residents should not exercise outdoors, we should work from home, and do anything we can to reduce NOx emissions. Since ozone is formed when NOx and VOCs mix in the presence of sunlight, it is equally important that the oil and gas sector must also reduce VOC emissions in an effort to reduce ground-level ozone to safe levels.
The oil and gas industry is one of the nation’s largest sources of industrial methane pollution. Oil and gas companies leak and vent methane into the atmosphere when they extract, store, and transport oil and gas throughout the supply chain.
As Colorado has experienced the detrimental effects of air pollution and climate change, we have been forced to contend with the negative impacts of oil and gas extraction. As such, Colorado has continued to lead the nation on strict methane regulations, and even with these enhanced regulations, oil and gas production is still viable in our state. We have already increased wellbore integrity, enhanced programs for leak detection and repair, prohibited the practice of routine venting and flaring (except for in emergency situations), begun the process of replacing pneumatic controllers with non-methane-emitting alternatives, and are currently working on methods to require legacy wells that emit pollution, but produce very little, to finally be properly plugged and abandoned. These same enhanced regulations to reduce methane emissions can be effectively implemented across the country, just as they have been here in Colorado.
I am concerned about the impacts of climate change. Last year, Colorado experienced the three worst wildfires in our state’s history, which impacted air quality across the state, and Colorado remains in severe drought on the western slope. Colorado relies on our winter snowpack for our water supply. These impacts are serious, and we must reduce our pollution now.
I am also concerned about the health impacts stemming from air pollution. When methane is released during oil and gas operations, co-pollutants are also released, including carcinogens such as benzene. Benzene can worsen asthma, affect lung development in children, and increases the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental problems.
Air pollution can travel long distances and harm people's health, but the communities, like mine, that live near oil and gas operations are exposed to higher levels of harmful air pollution that put our health at risk—especially our children, pregnant women, older adults, and those with underlying conditions, as well as disproportionately impacted communities, which most often include people of color and low-income communities.