A growing concern with the potential health effects of chemical emissions from oil and gas fields is prompting a new study that will collect samples from sites in several regions, including the West Slope of Colorado.
Steve Hamburg, chief scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while initial studies of emissions from oil and gas fields are limited in scope and varied, they indicate there is an issue.
The problem, say researchers, is the lack of sufficient data available to know exactly what chemical emissions are being emitted from the fields and how they are dispersing. The size and nature of oil and gas field emissions are not well-understood.
The oil and gas industry is supporting the new sampling study, said Kathleen Sgamma, a vice president with the Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based trade group.
“We know that there are emissions from the oil and gas industry,” Lisa McKenzie, a research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health, told Mark Jaffe of the Denver Post.
“But there are big, unanswered questions: How much is emitted? How far away you need to be to protected?” said McKenzie. She is author of a study that found elevated emissions close to drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, near Battlement Mesa. That study, however, looked at data from 2008, before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission set forth new drilling regulations that impacted emissions, among other key provisions.