Protect West Texans From Toxic Pollution

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Pollution from fossil fuel drilling in the Permian Basin is threatening the environment and health of people in West Texas.


The Permian Basin oil producing region encompasses about 63,834 square miles in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, extending to 29,000 feet underground, making it one of the thickest hydrocarbon producing regions in the world1.

Oil companies have been drilling in the Permian since the 1920s, but horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing brought a new boom to the region in the past decade. In 2015, Congress lifted the U.S. ban on the export of crude oil, further boosting domestic production.2.

According to the International Energy Agency, U.S. crude oil will account for 80 percent of the growth in global oil supply over the next seven years, and most of that oil will come from the Permian3.

With that oil comes record-breaking production of natural gas and natural gas liquids, along with the processing, storage, and transportation that these products require. This requires a massive buildout of plants, tanks, pipes, and other infrastructure – most of which release air pollution.

Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous air pollutant that harms people and animals, and acidifies soil and water.  Short-term exposures to SO2 can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult. People with asthma, particularly children, are especially sensitive to these effects of SO24.

A 2018 study, published in the American Chemistry Society's Environmental Science and Technology, found that health costs in Odessa (Ector County) attributable to SO2 air pollution are greater than many of Texas' heavily industrialized Gulf Coast counties5.

Industry self-reported sulfur dioxide releases from flaring activity around Odessa are causing levels of air pollution more than double the national health-based standard throughout the county, including at churches and residences6.

"Since 2013, oil and gas companies have flared almost a trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Permian with virtually no protection for the communities that have to breathe the results," said Colin Leyden, Director at the Environmental Defense Fund6. "The Texas Railroad Commission has ignored years of pressure to address the problem. We're calling on the EPA to make sure Texans have the basic safeguards they deserve."

We cannot allow the residents of West Texas to suffer because their leaders are failing to meet the federal health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standard for human exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sign the petition below and demand the EPA redesignate Ector County, Texas, under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

More on this issue:

  1. Natural Gas Intelligence (2021), "Information about the Permian Shale Basin."
  2. Charles K. Ebinger and Heather L. Greenley, Brookings (16 September 2015), "Lifting the U.S. ban on crude oil exports: Let's use data over ideology."
  3. International Energy Agency (March 2021), "Oil 2021 Analysis and forecast to 2026."
  4. Sierra Club (22 October 2020), "Groups Petition EPA to Reduce Air Pollution from Oil & Gas in West Texas."
  5. Diane M. Sicotte, Energy Research & Social Science (August 2020), "From cheap ethane to a plastic planet: Regulating an industrial global production network."
  6. Sharmila Bhandari, P. Grace Tee Lewis, Elena Craft, Skylar W. Marvel, David M. Reif, Weihsueh A. Chiu, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (11 February 2020), "HGBEnviroScreen: Enabling Community Action through Data Integration in the Houston—Galveston—Brazoria Region."
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The Petition:

To the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,

The residents of West Texas are being put at risk because of oil drilling in the Permian Basin, and it is within your authority to implement the necessary protections these people deserve as Americans.

Since 2013, oil and gas companies have flared almost a trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Permian with virtually no protection for the communities that have to breathe the results. Industry self-reported sulfur dioxide releases from flaring activity around Odessa are causing levels of air pollution more than double the national health-based standard throughout the county, including at churches and residences.

Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous air pollutant that harms people and animals, and acidifies soil and water.  Short-term exposures to SO2 can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult. People with asthma, particularly children, are especially sensitive to these effects of SO2.

The health of millions is at risk, and the threat will only worsen if action is not taken now.

We cannot allow the residents of West Texas to suffer because their leaders are failing to meet the federal health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standard for human exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2). I demand you reconsider the decision to designate the Ector County, Texas area as unclassifiable/attainment for the Sulfur Dioxide Primary (Health-Based) National Ambient Air Quality Standard, take environmental action into your own hands, and save lives in West Texas!

Sincerely,

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Signatures: