Clean Air Task Force and Earthworks have just launched the Oil and Gas Smoggy Day Alert Tool to educate and mobilize citizens living in areas with significant oil and gas development when dangerous ozone pollution levels — caused in part by oil and gas operations — in their area are high. Users across the country can select from 148 counties in 22 states that have significant ozone pollution, and oil and gas development, for which they would like to receive alerts. Users can sign-up to receive alerts for yellow (moderate), orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups), and red (unhealthy) air quality days. Just in time for ozone season, the Trump administration has taken several major steps backwards to make it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute the air, including by proposing to gut methane pollution standards.
“We developed and launched these alerts to put critical information about ozone pollution in the hands of people around the country for the first time,” said Lesley Fleischman, a Senior Analyst with Clean Air Task Force. “For over three years, the Trump administration has prioritized gutting federal safeguards that keep our air clean and safe to breathe instead of strengthening protections and holding polluters in the oil and gas industry accountable for ruining our air quality. With this critical information now at their fingertips, our hope is that activists will mobilize to pressure the federal and state governments to take action to curb ozone pollution and protect public health and the environment.”
Oil and Gas Smoggy Day Alerts rely on actual observed ozone levels, so alerts can only be sent for counties with ozone monitors. Of the 752 counties identified to have significant ozone attributable to oil and gas air pollution, only 148 of these counties in 22 states have ozone monitors managed by state, local, tribal, or federal air agencies.
“Ozone pollution from the oil and gas industry is a growing threat to our health. The Smoggy Days tool enables the public to do what the Trump administration refuses to do: pressure the oil and gas industry to curb pollution, and encourage state and local officials to hold polluters accountable,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel.
The methodology of the Oil and Gas Smoggy Day Alerts can be found here.
A full list of the counties included can be found here.
Additional Background: Air pollution from the oil and gas industry causes ozone smog, which harms public health. The oil and gas industry dumps more than 9 million tons of methane and other pollutants, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), into our air each year. These pollutants contribute to the formation of ozone smog pollution, blanketing the U.S. in the warmer months. In addition, in certain areas with high levels of oil and gas development — such as Utah’s Uintah basin, and Wyoming’s Green River Basin — ozone levels can be quite high in the wintertime.
VOCs and methane are commonly vented and leaked from the oil and gas supply chain, and NOx formed by gas flaring and engines at natural gas facilities react together in the presence of sunlight to form ozone smog. Methane pollution from oil and gas facilities also worsens climate change, resulting in hotter weather and stagnant air. These warmer conditions in turn worsen ozone smog levels. When inhaled, ozone smog can impair lung function, trigger asthma attacks, and aggravate conditions of people with bronchitis and emphysema, in some cases leading to premature death. So, like COVID-19, exposure to ozone smog pollution can be deadly, and the elderly, and people with existing respiratory conditions are at increased risk.
For more information about Oil and Gas Smoggy Day Alerts and to sign up to receive alerts in your area, please visit https://oilandgasthreatmap.com/smoggy-days-alerts/.