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Strengthening Environmental and Health Protections

Walt Desatoff looks out the window of his bedroom at the oil field across the street from his home in Shafter, CA. A few years ago, the field was filled with roses. Now, Desatoff sees multiple oil pumpjacks and a giant flare.

Walt Desatoff looks out the window of his bedroom at the oil field across the street from his home in Shafter, CA. A few years ago, the field was filled with roses. Now, Desatoff sees multiple oil pumpjacks and a giant flare.

Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Earthjustice is fighting back against oil and gas drilling, which threatens people’s health and the environment.

While the oil and gas industry has mounted a well-funded campaign to label gas development as “clean energy,” it is anything but clean. In Colorado, an oil-and-gas-related spill reaches a river or stream, or contaminates groundwater, every three-and-a-half days. Oil and gas also generates more air pollution in the Denver metropolitan area than all its cars and trucks combined. Sparsely populated but heavily drilled areas of Wyoming now experience ozone levels higher than those in Los Angeles. The infrastructure for development and transmission threatens to fragment forests that protect important watersheds and provide habitat for endangered species and migratory birds.

The threat from this under-regulated industrial activity is compounded by its widely dispersed nature. Oil and gas drilling involves hundreds of sites spread across the landscape. As they move into new regions, drilling affects more and more areas.

A congressional investigation disclosed that companies across the country have illegally injected millions of gallons of diesel fuel underground without obtaining Safe Drinking Water Act permits.

Earthjustice is strengthening environmental and health protections by:

  1. Pushing for stronger clean air standards for oil and gas drilling. In Colorado, Earthjustice and other environmental groups are calling on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to consider ground-breaking revisions to the state’s air pollution rules. If passed, the rules would make Colorado the first state in the nation to regulate methane emissions and impose statewide leak detection and repair requirements on the oil and gas industry.
  2. Calling for greater transparency through the adoption of chemical disclosure rules. In Colorado, Earthjustice represented members of the conservation community in shaping a state rule on fracking that requires full disclosure of the substances used in the fracking process. In Wyoming, Earthjustice has appealed to Wyoming’s highest court, asking it to compel the State’s oil and gas permitting agency to disclose the chemicals that are injected underground during fracking.
  3. Challenging the industry’s proposal to store gas in unsafe areas. Earthjustice is demanding that state officials pick up where federal regulators have left off and scrutinize the combined environmental and community impacts of using two abandoned salt caverns near Seneca Lake in upstate New York as gas storage facilities.
  4. Challenging permits for facilities that will treat fracking wastewater laced with toxic chemicals. If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent years dumping up to 500,000 gallons per day of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River.
  5. Intervening in pipeline permitting proceedings for proposed pipelines in New York and Pennsylvania. Earthjustice expects thousands of miles of new pipeline construction in the two states over the coming years. The clear-cut corridors will scar the landscape and facilitate additional development with all of its adverse impacts. We are forcing federal and state agencies to conduct serious environmental reviews of key pipelines.
  6. Pushing for the disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry, one of the largest sources of methane, a potent global warming pollutant.
  7. Advocating that the U.S. EPA make vital updates to nationwide air quality protections to include oil and natural gas production.