Gas industry: Air-quality study flawed

A national oil and gas industry advocacy group is challenging the findings of a new western Colorado study raising concerns about air pollution near well pad activities, saying the authors are biased and simply trying to elicit scary-sounding media reports.

Energy in Depth, a research, education and public outreach campaign created by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, says on its website that when the flaws of a paper by The Endocrine Disruption Exchange are added up, “it’s hard to see what scientific purpose it serves.”

“It includes air quality measurements, but makes no connection between those measurements and nearby wellsites. Those measurements also show air quality levels are safe. The rest of the paper is mostly unsupported opinion and speculation from a group with a clear agenda against development,” EID research director Simon Lomax says in his critique of the report by Paonia-based TEDX.

The TEDX paper was prepared by four scientists, including TEDX founder Theo Colborn and executive director Carol Kwiatkowski, and focused on air quality near well pad activities at a site east of Parachute. It has been accepted for publication by the international journal “Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.”

The report concluded that “air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations.”

Many chemicals were detected at levels well below federal safety standards, but still may pose health hazards, the report said.

“Since this paper presents no evidence of unsafe air quality readings that can be blamed on natural gas wells, its conclusions really come down to the opinions of the authors and their employer, TEDX,” wrote Lomax, noting that the report also concedes the chemicals it reports on can’t be causally connected to oil and gas operations.

Lomax said anti-industry comments can be found on TEDX’s own website, and it has received at least $425,000 since 2005 from the New York Community Trust, which funds a number of groups opposed to natural gas development.

“This is exactly what we would expect from industry,” Kwiatkowski responded. “Yes, we have studied the impacts from natural gas operations for years and we are concerned about potential health effects from air pollution. So we did some air sampling and wrote up the results, which were accepted by a peer-reviewed scientific journal.”

As for the assertion about playing to the media, while the paper was posted to TDEX’s website, Kwiatkowski noted that no news release was issued about it.

Lomax also suggested Interstate 70 traffic about a mile from the testing site might be the source of identified pollutants. The study says the pollutants researchers found are more associated with oil and gas development than traffic.


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This response from industry is why the general public doesn’t support or trust the industry, even when things are done right. There are emissions of known carcinogens from drilling. We ought to be testing levels - but I suspect some people would be afraid of that. We ought to drill for gas, but do so in ways that protect health and water.

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