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Trump Fracking Leases Threaten Already Smog-choked Communities
by Center for Biological Diversity
Thursday May 3rd, 2018 6:45 PM
Utah, Colorado, Texas Among Areas Exceeding Federal Smog Limits
WASHINGTON, May 1, 2018 — New federal fracking leases threaten to worsen ozone pollution in communities across the country ― within and near places the Environmental Protection Agency today designated as exceeding federal limits for deadly ozone pollution.

The Trump administration declared new “nonattainment” areas today in some of the same places where it has approved massive fracking leases ― including urban centers and rural communities in Utah, Colorado and Texas. However the EPA today failed to declare part of Colorado’s Weld County as a nonattainment area despite pollution from thousands of oil and gas wells that contribute to some of the highest smog levels in the state.

People who live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution are at risk for premature death, lung cancer, asthma attacks and cardiovascular problems. Living in these areas also increases the risk of stillbirths and developmental delays in children.

“It’s despicable for the Trump administration to gamble with the lives of children to appease fossil fuel interests,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Allowing oil and gas development in areas already choking on pollution is making a bad situation much worse. They’re creating toxic environments for communities and wildlife and destroying public lands in the process.”

Ozone, commonly known as smog, stems from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial activities like oil and gas development. The EPA strengthened its ozone standard following an exhaustive scientific review in 2015. According to the agency’s own estimates, meeting the standard will prevent hundreds of deaths, as well as 230,000 asthma attacks in children, each year.

Pollution exceeds new federal limits in several metropolitan areas along Colorado’s Front Range, including in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. Since 2017 the Bureau of Land Management has issued multiple leases to oil and gas companies in or near these nonattainment areas. Public health problems from fracking along the Front Range have been well documented. Still EPA failed to designate heavily polluted northern Weld County as exceeding federal ozone limits.

Seven counties in Utah’s Uintah Basin and near Salt Lake City exceed the new federal ozone limits. Under Trump the BLM approved 60 new fracking leases spanning 62,060 acres in Uintah and Duchesne counties, even though fossil fuel development is a primary source of ozone pollution in the Uintah Basin. Every day more than 250 truckloads of oil from Uintah Basin are shipped to Salt Lake City refineries, causing more ozone pollution. More oil and gas development in the Uintah Basin could worsen smog along the Wasatch Front.

Ozone pollution in California is already so severe that most of the state and Central Valley exceeds federal limits. The BLM is now considering a plan to open more than 1 million acres of public lands in the area to new oil and gas leasing, which would significantly worsen regional ozone pollution.

Following a lawsuit from the Center and other conservation and public-health groups, a federal judge ruled in March that the EPA broke the law when it failed to enact nationwide standards to curb ozone pollution. The decision affects cities and rural areas across the country where ozone pollution levels are too high, including metropolitan New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, the Bay Area and Utah’s Uintah Basin.

Photo: White River, Uintah Basin, Utah, by Taylor McKinnon.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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