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May 16, 2024 7:26 pm

Local News

Study: PA ranks high for health impacts of oil and gas flaring emissions

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Danielle Smith, Public News Service

new study raised red flags about respiratory health in Pennsylvania, particularly for those living near oil and gas activity.

The study by GeoHealth said nationwide, oil and gas venting and flaring exacerbate asthma in 73,000 children, including nearly 12,000 in Pennsylvania.

Jackson Zeiler, public health analyst for the Environmental Health Project, said energy developers do flaring and venting on a regular basis to remove excess gas. He explained the study looked at the potential health risks associated with the practice.

“There’s adverse birth outcomes, there’s cancer outcomes,” Zeiler pointed out. “Volatile Organic Compounds are a big part of these emissions, which have a whole host of health effects, including respiratory health issues, different neurological effects like headaches and dizziness for people who are working in those facilities, and people who live really close by.”

Zeiler noted flaring also contributes to an increased risk of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, worsening asthma and even premature death. But the energy industry said flaring is needed to minimize pressure at well sites, for testing and other reasons.

The study used satellite images and gas-imaging techniques to visualize emissions. Zeiler added companies are required to report their emissions to regulatory authorities and the data is compiled into a National Emissions Inventory through various sensors.

“They looked at the National Emissions Inventory numbers and compared it to the actual imaging that they looked at,” Zeiler emphasized. “They found that the imaging saw way more emissions than was accounted for in the National Emissions Inventory. They’re able to conclude that companies are underreporting, essentially, what they’re flaring and what they’re emitting.”

He suggested Pennsylvanians could work with lawmakers on stricter reporting guidelines and transparency requirements for oil and gas operators. He also recommended advocating for greater setback distances between well sites and residential areas to minimize exposure.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.