Permian Basin at higher risk of oil and gas health impacts, study says

Emissions from the oil and gas industry threaten the health of more than a third of the people who call Eddy County home, and environmentalists are calling for stricter federal rules to protect the air they breathe.

A “threat map” was published Tuesday by national environmental group Earthworks showing 23,292 Eddy County residents live within half a mile of oil and gas extraction – an area the group referred to as the “threat radius.” That’s 39 percent of the county’s population of about 60,000, per the latest US Census data.

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Neighboring Lea County, New Mexico’s other county within the Permian Basin – the US’ most active oilfield – had 25,532 people in the threat radius, about 35 percent of that county’s population of about 73,000.

Statewide, 144,377 New Mexicans live within a threat radius, per the report, which encompasses 8,799 acres.

While that total ranks New Mexico, one of the US’ most oil-productive states, at 15th for the population in the radius, it also means 7 percent of the state’s population is within the threat radius.

Earthworks' 'threat map' shows people who live within half a mile of oil and gas operations in New Mexico and other states.

Read More:Oil and gas land sale in New Mexico a month away as groups protest environmental impacts

Kayley Shoup, a Carlsbad resident and organizer with local environmental group Citizens Caring for the Future said “frontline” communities like her own alongside oil and gas development said that while the industry supports the local economy, its profits should not be prioritized over public health.

“In the Permian, it feels like we’re living on a runaway train,” Shoup said. “We have geopolitics that are pushing production. The health issues can feel very overwhelming.”

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