Newsy documentary finds 1.4 million people living in high-risk zones near oil and gas sites

Posted at 9:32 AM, Aug 20, 2019

The U.S. is in the middle of a fossil fuel resurgence. The nation is now the top producer of oil and gas in the world, in large part due to new technology and increased export overseas. But the surge in production has also resulted in more drilling near residential areas across the U.S.

Peer-reviewed studies from leading researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health say people living near active oil and gas wells are at an elevated risk of cancer, respiratory and neurological effects, and birth defects. A new analysis from the Newsy documentary "Blowout" estimates 1.4 million people in the U.S. live within these high-risk zones.

"Blowout" is the product of a four-newsroom partnership between Newsy, The Associated Press, The Center for Public Integrity, and The Texas Tribune (read more reporting from the project here) . The documentary follows the global path of U.S. oil and gas from Texas to Panama to India and shows its impacts on public health, profits, and the climate.

"Blowout" is now available for streaming on Newsy and Amazon Prime .

A nationwide analysis for the documentary shows big gaps in health and safety standards across the U.S. meant to protect citizens from air toxins like benzene, which can be released from active oil and gas wells in harmful amounts.

Setback laws are meant to keep active wells a safe distance from residential areas, but there's no federal standard. Many states either don't have setback laws or have setback laws that don't cover the 500-foot high risk zone around drilling identified by researchers.

Use Newsy's interactive map below to see the risk in your state and check whether your state's setback laws cover the 500-foot high-risk zone around active wells here .