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Oil & Gas Impacts

A balanced energy strategy for the West means working to strengthen—not undermine—common sense protections for outdoor spaces and local communities.

The Impacts of Energy Development on Western Communities

As production moves closer to Western communities and our prized public lands, oil and gas growth shouldn’t outpace common sense standards to protect Western water, outdoor spaces, and communities. From spills and water contamination, to air pollution, habitat fragmentation, and community economic impacts, oil and gas drilling on public lands has multiple negative side-effects.

While oil and gas drilling remains one important use of America’s public lands, by law it is not the dominant use—just one of many activities sharing U.S. public lands.

It is the job of the Interior Department to help avoid and alleviate risks, while striking a balance between drilling impacts, drilling benefits, and other competing uses of public lands. As oil and gas production moves closer to Western communities and our prized public land, elected leaders should be working to strengthen—not undermine—common-sense standards to protect Western water, outdoor spaces, and communities.

Here are some of the facts:

  • In New Mexico, oil and gas companies reported 1,310 spills in 2016, roughly 3.6 per day.

  • In Colorado, 509 oil and gas related spills were reported in 2016, 32 percent of which occurred within 1,500 feet of an occupied building.

  • In Wyoming, oil and gas companies reported 626 spills in 2016.

  • Between 2009 and 2015, about 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas was vented, flared, and leaked from operations on public lands. That amount of gas could supply 6.2 million households for a year.

  • Oil and gas operations are also the largest industrial source” of volatile organic carbons, which lead to the formation of ground level ozone (known to aggravate asthma, increase hospitalizations, and cause premature death).

  • Oil and gas boomtowns have to deal with a massive influx of people, live with increased traffic and road deaths, provide social services, and address many of the social problems associated with booms: crime, drug abuse, and crowded schools.

  • Oil and gas development can “fragment” wildlife habitat and have serious consequences for wildlife populations.
  • Some of America’s most treasured parks and public lands are threatened by the impacts of oil and gas drilling.