The sky is pink


It’s that time of year when Garfield County and the Colorado Dept of Health and the Environment tell us the sky is pink. You might want to review Josh Fox’s short film The Sky is Pink as refresher course for this current gaslighting episode.

Report: Air near drilling is clean

Air pollution levels near Ursa Resources drilling operations in Battlement Mesa fall within health standards, analysis suggests.

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment evaluation of samples collected by Garfield County found that all samples of individual and combined volatile organic compounds taken during the fourth quarter of last year “were below long-term non-cancer health guideline values established by state and federal agencies,” where such values have been established.

It also found that cancer risks estimates for two VOCs, benzene and ethylbenzene, individually and combined were within the Environmental Protection Agency’s generally acceptable risk range …

The problem with the EPA’s “acceptable risk range” is — much like air quality measurements — it’s a combination of rolling averages based on population and exposure. In other words, it doesn’t mean people don’t get sick from exposure, it just means that the number of people who do get sick from exposure is “acceptable” to Garfield County, the CPHE and the EPA.

A report published in PLOS Biology in December 2017, found that the way the EPA and other regulatory agencies assess the risk of chemicals, has underestimated the impact of prolonged exposure to low doses of toxic chemicals (including benzene and ethylbenzene) on human health and disease rates.

There is no safe level of benzene.

Ursa has drilled dozens of wells from two pads in the residential community of several thousand residents, and is now in the process of hydraulically fracturing wells from that first phase of planned drilling there.

The county now has air-quality data dating back to March 2017 specific to Ursa’s drilling, and none of the readings to date has risen to levels of concern.

The fourth-quarter results were based on samplers downwind and upwind of one of the Ursa pads, known as the D pad, with the goal of being able to determine to what degree pollutants are associated with operations on the pad. County officials also took three “grab” samples near homes by what’s called the B pad due to hydraulic fracturing operations occurring there and some associated odor concerns …

Evidently they avoided sampling the air at these two pads.

These two FLIR videos were filmed at two existing Ursa well pads in Battlement Mesa on May 5, 2017.

Ursa B&V Lease, Battlement Mesa, CO

Ursa BMC Lease, Battlement Mesa, CO

… State health officials caution in their evaluation about the limitations they face in evaluating the data. They said the county data represents a “snapshot” of VOC concentrations from all sources during weeklong periods or grab samples. That may not capture peak exposures, “and samples collected under different conditions and times could have different results,” the evaluation says.

It says other substances from oil and gas development that weren’t sampled could pose additional health risks.

Those final two paragraphs sum up the situation for what it is — or isn’t. Their sampling protocol wasn’t exactly scientific. The FLIR videos show how quickly the emissions are carried away from the well pad. VOC concentrations are heaviest at dawn, especially in low regions like river basins and gullies. Readings should be taken in the early morning hours in the same place to get accurate measurements.

But they aren’t even testing for toluene, xylene, styrene, hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals so there’s that.

We know for certain the air in Battlement Mesa smells bad. When you’re there, you can’t deny it. It burns your eyes, ears, nose and throat and makes you cough. Some people call that “allergies.” Battlement Mesa residents are free to choose what they want to believe about the risk associated with emissions coming from oil & gas operations.

Notice that no one is saying those toxic chemical emissions don’t exist. The best the county and the state can come up with is to say the presence of toxic chemicals in their limited samples was at “acceptable risk levels.”

It doesn’t matter whether you believe the sky is blue or the sky is pink. The truth is the sky is full of toxic chemicals.

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