Asthma & Lung Disease on Public Lands

We’re anxiously awaiting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s ruling on methane -- a colorless, odorless flammable gas that is the main component of natural gas.  With oil development increasing, especially in the Four Corners region of the United States, more and more methane is vented or flared off at well sites, polluting the once pristine air of northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Utah and southern Colorado, as well as in other areas stretching northward into North Dakota.    Methane creates smog which significantly harms lungs – making it difficult to breathe deeply, increasing asthma attacks, aggravating lung diseases, making the lungs more susceptible to infection, creating lung scar tissue, and much more.   In addition, methane release often accompanies other toxic pollutants such as cancer-causing benzene. 

Some argue that these health impacts are a small price to pay for the jobs that are created in the oil and gas industry.  But just as César Chávez struggled to stop pesticide use because of the health threats to the largely Latino population of farm workers; we should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils.   Affordable technologies exist for oil and gas companies to thrive and reduce air pollution and toxic off-gassing.  We shouldn't have to sacrifice our health in order to keep the economy running.  Many of these oil and gas wells are located on federal and tribal lands – lands that belong to the people. And that means that we have a voice in how they are managed and used. We urge the BLM to stop venting and flaring of natural gas.

lower left corner is a well pad for oil and gas drilling. note close proximity to homes in the Four corners area of new mexico. Photo Ecoflight

lower left corner is a well pad for oil and gas drilling. note close proximity to homes in the Four corners area of new mexico. Photo Ecoflight

Every day that passes without a ruling from the BLM, we wait as the health issues, pollution and losses accrue, including EACH DAY:

  • The release of over 2,700 tons of methane – a gas that’s 86 times more potent at global warming than carbon dioxide.
  • The loss of enough natural gas to meet the heating and cooking needs of 4,383 homes.
  • The loss of $87,000 in royalties that we could be using for schools, desperately needed infrastructure repairs, and more.
Flaring occurs when natural gas is burned directly into the air.Piceance basin, CO. Photo: Tim Hurst CC by-SA 2.0

Flaring occurs when natural gas is burned directly into the air.Piceance basin, CO. Photo: Tim Hurst CC by-SA 2.0

Americans across the West are demanding that the BLM issue a strong rule that protects the American people and drastically cuts natural gas waste from drilling operations on our public lands. Learn more and get involved here.