Oil Rigs Make Bad Neighbors: Americans Harmed By Oil And Gas Drilling, Seek To Be Heard

A coalition of people who live and work near the drilling rigs that have allowed the U.S. to see incredible booms in oil and gas production is in Washington, D.C. this week demanding that both government and industry be held accountable when drilling causes health and environmental problems.

Members of the “Stop the Frack Attack” coalition held a forum yesterday because, as their website states:

Impacted communities [are] “experts” schooled in the curriculum of hard knocks doled out by the oil and gas industry.

In total, 16 people spoke at the forum representing eight different states. They included ranchers, mothers, librarians, nurses, and former industry employees. They came from various political backgrounds — in fact, one speaker held up the Constitution, the Bible, and his badge from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year to relate how he has pled with Republicans to help communities pushed to the wayside by oil and gas companies.

All of the speakers described the impacts of oil and natural gas drilling on their health and property. For example, Kristi Mogen, whose community in Wyoming was evacuated after a well blowout in April 2012, spoke of her two daughters and husband who suffered nosebleeds and other health effects afterwards. And Rod Brueske of Longmont, Colorado explained how his “American dream was shattered by multinational companies” after a natural gas well across the street from his farm released chemicals into the air.

This is an important moment for oil and natural gas policy in Washington, D.C. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week is holding the final two of its three recent forums on natural gas policy issues. Of the 36 witnesses invited to share their opinions about natural gas in the U.S., none are citizens from affected communities.

And, last week, the Department of Energy announced the approval of a second facility to export natural gas to other counties, while the Department of the Interior released rules governing hydraulic fracturing on public lands that lack basic public right-to-know measures.

A new report released from the Center for American Progress shows that the five largest oil companies earned more than $30 billion in profits in just the first quarter of 2013. Put a different way, in only one minute these companies make more than “what 95 percent of American households earn in an entire year.”

And yet, citizens living near drilling rigs have to deal directly with the costs of drilling. As Jon Fenton, a rancher in Wyoming who admitted he hadn’t been on an airplane until six years ago when he began working on behalf of his community stated at the forum yesterday, “It’s us who have to bear that burden…but now I know that there are things worth fighting for.”