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About Sharon Wilson, Senior Organizer

Sharon is a 5th generation Texan who joined Earthworks in 2010 after 12 years of working in the oil and gas industry where she witnessed first-hand the environmental and public health impacts associated with the industry. She has briefed NATO Parliamentary Assembly, EPA regulators and even former Administrator Gina McCarthy on the impacts of oil and gas extraction. In 2014, she became a certified optical gas imaging thermographer and now travels across the U.S. making visible the invisible methane pollution from oil and gas facilities. More from Sharon.

Location: Permian Basin

The Permian Basin is an oil-and-gas-producing area, approximately 250 miles wide and 300 miles long, located in West Texas and the adjoining area of southeastern New Mexico. Over 85,000 drilling permits (for new wells and re-entry) have been issued for the Permian Basin by the TX RRC since 2006, and the region is currently producing around 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Under a state regulatory framework that heavily favors the oil & gas industry, companies are drilling so fast that they are running out of pipelines to carry the oil and gas they produce. They are also running out of labor to work the operations and water to use in the hydraulic fracturing (i.e. fracking).

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Site Visits

Since October 2016, Earthworks has completed 13 trips to the Permian Basin (in West TX and SE NM) and 250 individual FLIR camera investigations of oil & gas facilities in the region. These 13 trips have resulted in 50 complaints submitted by Earthworks to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the New Mexico Environment Department. 5 of those complaints have resulted in formal action being taken to clean up the site in question.

Equipment: FLIR Camera

Pete Dronkers, a trained Earthworks thermographer, using the FLIR camera

Earthworks’ FLIR (forward looking infrared) GF320 cameras are specifically designed to detect hydrocarbon and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. OGI cameras like the GF320 are calibrated to a narrow part of the electromagnetic spectrum where hydrocarbons absorb infrared light. As a result, the normally invisible emissions become opaque so the camera can record them for us to see.

Earthworks’ thermographers (camera operators) have been trained and certified to properly use OGI to detect these gases, as well as how to distinguish between this pollution and heat sources (which the cameras can also detect).

Our thermographers are Infrared Training Center (ITC) certified. These trainings are the gold-standard qualification within the thermography industry and are the same certification required by many industry operators and regulatory agencies for FLIR camera use.

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About Community Empowerment Project (CEP)

Earthworks’ Community Empowerment Project (CEP) works with communities to protect their health and the climate by making visible normally invisible air pollution from oil and gas facilities. Learn more at cep.earthworks.org.

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