The natural gas and oil industry is committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees, our contractors, and the people of the communities in which we operate. Many of our employees live in those areas. Their children attend schools and daycare centers that may be near energy development.

Assessing, understanding, and managing health risks requires a broad range of information and expertise. Peer-reviewed studies and environmental and human health data are used to understand the potential risks as well as the effectiveness of risk management strategies at protecting human health.

Colorado has a well-established stakeholder process that has helped make our state the seventh largest producer of oil and natural gas in the country. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) established a set of guidelines after extensive stakeholder interviews to address local community impacts and developed a set of guidelines for oil and natural gas. Currently, energy development must be 1,000 feet – more than the length of a football field – away from school buildings, though operators may request a variance from the COGCC.

Several studies have looked at the relationship between energy production and human health. The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) issued a report that found the “risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living near oil and gas operations.” The assessment also noted “results from exposure and health effect studies do not indicate the need for immediate public health action…”

Systematic review of literature Studies of populations living near oil and gas operations provide limited evidence of the possibility for harmful health effects. This needs to be confirmed or disputed with higher quality studies.
Screening assessment of exposures Based on currently available air monitoring data, the risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living near oil and gas operations.

“At this time, results from exposure and health effect studies do not indicate the need for immediate public health action, but rather indicate the need for more detailed exposure monitoring and systematic analyses of health effects of residents living near oil and gas operations.” –CDPHE, 2017

Overall, the assessments conducted by CDPHE predict that adverse health consequences from exposures to chemicals emitted by oil and gas operations to humans living > 500 feet from these operations is unlikely, and there is no direct evidence from human studies that contradicts this prediction.

A study in the Barnett Shale from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concluded: “Based on the air monitoring data used in this evaluation and associated risk assessment results, there is no substantial health risk from acute or chronic exposure to air emissions from NGOs (natural gas operations).”

Both studies help keep public health discussions associated with oil and natural gas development focused on rational analysis. Hazard assessments should be accompanied by exposure analysis that accounts for frequency, duration and magnitude to determine whether impacts on health are possible.

Protecting health is a top priority for our industry and our companies recognize that support from hosting communities is essential for long-term relationships and a growing workforce that accompanies oil and natural gas development.