Leaked methane and other toxic gases are polluting the air with serious health risks for local communities whose fortunes depend on oil and gas in the shale boom state.
“My daughter has asthma. She is not the only one around here, something is wrong here, our air quality shouldn’t be this way.”
Shirley “Sug” McNall is leaning up against a fence staring at a natural gas well about 40 meters from a playground behind the primary school where her daughter used to teach in Aztec, New Mexico. She believes that the gas industry and the explosion of fracking in her state is responsible for serious impacts on local air quality which are affecting people’s health.
Her fears were boosted last year when Nasa satellites identified a methane bubble over Aztec visible from space. The bubble suggests that during drilling and production the natural gas industry is not capturing all of the gas they unlock from deep in the ground and significant amounts of this methane and other chemicals are leaking into the sky. McNall believes that other more dangerous gasses are being released too.
Northern New Mexico’s San Juan county has been the centre of intense fossil fuel extraction for decades. Here, oil, gas and coal are all pulled out of the ground. Until now, many people blamed only the coal for the bad air. That was before people like McNall and three of her friends – who call themselves the “Four Grams” – got involved and started waking people up to the danger of the 20,000 wells in their community.
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