Texas oil and gas well blowout highlights fracking’s ongoing risk to health and climate

Statement of Sharon Wilson, Earthworks' certified optical gas imaging thermographer on the DEVON Energy incident near Yorktown, TX.

“Yet another oil and gas well blowout in yet another town demonstrates yet again that the only way to guarantee your safety from oil and gas production is not to live near it.

This isn’t Devon’s first blowout, or second, despite its promises of safe operation. Devon isn’t Texas’s first repeat offender, or second, despite our state government’s promises of responsible oversight.

“Because neither communities nor climate can trust either companies or regulators, the only way to protect the public interest is to keep it in the ground. And where extraction is already occurring, we need strong rules, reliably and transparently enforced.”

Background
According to eyewitness reports, DEVON Energy had lost control of an oil and gas operation–a “blowout,” in industry jargon–outside of Yorktown, Texas, that spewed  methane and other health hazardous air pollution for 3 days into communities as far as 30 miles away in Karnes City, where TCEQ air quality monitors have shown a record spike in benezne of 8ppb on November 2nd, which is nearly 6 times over regulatory long term exposure limits. The oil and gas failure is reported to have happened three days ago and is ongoing.

A “blowout” is an incident that occurs during fossil fuel extraction when natural gas or crude oil is uncontrollably ejected from the wellhead due to a malfunction of equipment or human error.  It may happen during drilling, completion, or production phases of oil and gas operation. The most famous blowout in recent years is the Deepwater Horizon Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Natural gas contains methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more powerful at warming the climate than CO2, and a variety of air pollution toxics, such as cancer-causing benzene.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment recently released a study that found health impacts such as headaches, dizziness, respiratory, skin, and eye irritation as far away as 2000 feet from oil and gas operations that were functioning properly as engineered.  During a “blowout” incident, operations are abnormal.

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