Over 1 Million Blacks Live Near Oil & Gas Facilities: Report Links Emissions w/High Rates of Cancer & Asthma in Black Communities

From [CBS] and [CarbonatedTV] A new report warns of dire health effects on communities of color caused by oil and gas facilities located near residential areas, linking emissions of pollutants with high rates of cancer and asthma, especially in African-American neighborhoods.

The report, titled "Fumes Across the Fence-Line" and released on Tuesday, was produced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and the National Medical Association (NMA). The authors write that "fence-line communities" are disproportionately affected by pollution emitted by nearby industrial facilities.

"We've found that fence-line communities, including many African-Americans, are suffering especially serious health consequences as a result of these emissions," said the CATF's Lesley Fleischman, a co-author of the report.

The report found that more than 1 million African-Americans across the U.S. live within a half mile of natural gas facilities, with many communities facing a higher risk of cancer linked to emissions from the plants. The authors write that the oil and gas industry emits a total of 9 million tons of methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere every year, making the industry the largest emitter of methane gas in the country. 

Methane contributes to climate change at a rate that's 87 times higher than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas contributing to a changing climate. Methane plays a huge part in forming smog and warming the atmosphere; benzene, a carcinogenic compound; and other impulsive organic compounds that also add to the smog problem and can have a negative impact on the lungs.

Oil and natural gas industries ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards for ozone smog due to natural gas emissions in many African-American communities. Because of this gloomy and over polluted scenario, black children miss 100,000 school days each year while around 138,000 suffered asthma attacks.

"The life-threatening burdens placed on communities of color near oil and gas facilities are the result of systemic oppression perpetuated by the traditional energy industry, which exposes communities to health, economic, and social hazards," the report says.

Across the country, 91 counties are home to existing oil and gas facilities or ones that are in development. More than 6.7 million African-Americans, or 14 percent of the nationwide black population, reside in those counties. 

Louisiana and Texas have the largest African-American populations living in areas with elevated risks of cancer from pollutants, with nearly 900,000 individuals living near oil and gas facilities. However, the report notes that communities in several other states are also at risk, since pollutants can drift for miles before forming dangerous smog.

Black Americans already suffer disproportionately from asthma, and according to experts this will only get worse as industries continue to enter their communities without improving the emission standards.

“[These] industrial polluting facilities and sites have frequently been built in transitional neighborhoods, where the demographics have shifted from wealthier white residents to lower-income people of color,” said Kathy Egland, the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Committee board chair.

“Energy companies often deny responsibility for the disproportionate impact of polluting facilities on lower-income communities and communities of color,” she added.

Many environmental organizations have criticized Trump for withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord and dismantling environmental regulations.

“The main takeaway is that communities that live near oil and gas facilities are suffering real health impacts, but the impact is not limited to those communities,” Lesley Fleischman, a research analyst with the Clean Air Task Force that co-authored the report, said to Earther. “Air pollution is affecting communities across the country, and African American communities are particularly impacted.”

“While Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt continue to prop up their polluter pals, states and cities across the country are moving ahead with innovations that combat climate change, improve our air quality and promote healthy communities,” said Gene Karpinkski, president of the League of Conservation Voters in a statement.

"Communities of color cannot wait any longer for the Trump Administration to address climate change," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. "From Katrina, Sandy, Standing Rock, Harvey, Irma, to Maria — climate change's devastating impacts are here now, the solutions exist, and it's time to act. Climate change is not a game; it's a matter of life and death for our communities."

The authors said preserving regulations enacted by the Obama administration is key to protecting communities of color from pollution.

"Defending the safeguards finalized during the Obama administration and pushing for additional protections against pollution from the oil and gas industry will help improve the health of many African American communities while addressing global climate change," the report says.