Oil and gas extraction is a complex process that involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals underground to open fractures in rock and release oil and natural gas. In recent years, state regulators have been considering banning this process due to its potential environmental impact. In Orange County, CA, the oil and gas industry has been a major player for decades, with numerous front-line communities located less than 1 mile or even 2,500 feet from thousands of oil and gas wells. This article will provide an overview of the extraction process, the environmental impact of oil spills, and the data available to compare oil-producing regions. The extraction process begins with the injection of water, sand, and chemicals underground to open fractures in rock and release oil and natural gas.
This process can have a significant environmental impact if not done properly. For example, in 2019 two oil pipelines broke in Orange County, releasing 25,000 gallons and 176-236 gallons of oil into the ocean. Cleaning crews were able to remove 9,076 gallons of oil from the first pipeline, but more than half of the oil remains in the ocean or on the beach. In addition, 124 animals (birds, mammals, herptiles) were found to be oiled and only 36 survived. The danger posed by the oil industry's reckless behavior pattern increases when you consider that much of California's oil infrastructure is decades old and deteriorating.
Major oil spills continue to occur because oil companies prioritize profits over the health of people and the environment. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) will financially quantify the damage caused by the oil spill in terms of habitat and human use. Fortunately, data available to compare oil-producing regions is rapidly improving. The Oil-Climate Index Plus Gas (OCI+) project provides an analysis of the life cycle emissions of most of the world's oil resources, along with the specific production, processing and refining activities that contribute to those emissions. The Climate TRACE platform provides a comprehensive global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, including a country-by-country breakdown of oil and gas sector emissions. In addition, a Los Angeles City Council committee recently voted to develop a proposal that would phase out oil drilling throughout the city as a non-compliant use.
The map identifies operating oil and gas wells (active, inactive and new) located in buffer zones 2,500 feet and 1 mile from sensitive recipients such as homes, schools, authorized daycares and health centers. Crude oil is a mixture of toxic chemicals such as benzene and other carcinogens. It can come in different forms which can have different impacts on the ecosystem. It is important for people living near these wells to be aware of their potential exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other airborne toxins. In conclusion, it is clear that Orange County's oil and gas industry has had a significant environmental impact on the region. Fortunately, data is becoming increasingly available to compare different regions' emissions levels.
At the same time, local governments are taking steps to phase out drilling operations in urban areas. It is important for people living near these wells to be aware of their potential exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other airborne toxins.