By Dan Bacher, RED WHITE AND GREEN
June 3, 2020
In the wake of California oil and gas regulators approving 7.8 percent more new oil drilling permits during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, a new state-funded study documents the increased health risks to babies born to mothers living within one kilometer of an oil or gas well. A new study by the California Air Resources Board found that pregnant women who lived within 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) of active oil and gas wells in the state were 40% more likely to have babies with low birth weight than those not near active wells.
The retrospective cohort study examined 2,918,089 births to mothers living within 10 km of at least one production well between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2015.
“Adjusted models showed exposure to active OGD was associated with adverse birth outcomes in rural areas; effect estimates in urban areas were close to null. In rural areas, increasing production volume was associated with stronger adverse effect estimates,” according to the study abstract.
“Proximity to higher production OGD in California was associated with adverse birth outcomes among mothers residing in rural areas. Future studies are needed to confirm our findings in other populations and improve exposure assessment measures,” the study concluded. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5842
The authors of the study, Residential Proximity to Oil and Gas Development and Birth Outcomes in California: A Retrospective Cohort Study of 2006–2015 Births, are Kathy V. Tran, Joan A. Casey, Lara J. Cushing, and Rachel Morello-Frosch
“This study reconfirms what hundreds and hundreds of studies from here in California and across the country have shown over and over again: Fossil fuel drilling and fracking are a direct threat to human health – especially our children,” Food & Water Action State Director Alexandra Nagy said in a statement responding to the release of the study. “When Governor Newsom’s own administration is producing studies confirming the harm fracking inflicts on families, his failure to act against this hazardous practice – in fact expanding it in the midst of a pandemic – should be seen as all the more indefensible.”
“There’s now only one rational choice for Newsom: Put an immediate halt on new fracking permits and take serious, substantive steps to ramp down oil and gas development in this state immediately, starting with a 2,500-foot setback of existing wells from sensitive receptors,” Nagy continued.
Consumer Watchdog and FrackTrackerAlliance reported in May that the Newsom Administration issued 1,623 permits during the first quarter of this year. The California Department of Conservation on April 3 also approved 24 new fracking permits in Kern County during the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic and after a nearly six-month moratorium on new fracking operations.
The number of oil permits issued under Newsom since he took office in January 2019 now totals 6,168. The permit numbers and locations are posted and updated on an interactive map at the website: NewsomWellWatch.com