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Population Size, Growth, and Environmental Justice Near Oil and Gas Wells in Colorado

McKenzie, Lisa M., Allshouse, William B., Burke, Troy, Blair, Benjamin D., Adgate, John L.
Environmental Science & Technology 2016 v.50 no.21 pp. 11471-11480
basins, issues and policy, land use, market value, oil fields, oils, population size, risk, social justice, wells, Colorado
We evaluated population size and factors influencing environmental justice near oil and gas (O&G) wells. We mapped nearest O&G well to residential properties to evaluate population size, temporal relationships between housing and O&G development, and 2012 housing market value distributions in three major Colorado O&G basins. We reviewed land use, building, real estate, and state O&G regulations to evaluate distributive and participatory justice. We found that by 2012 at least 378,000 Coloradans lived within 1 mile of an active O&G well, and this population was growing at a faster rate than the overall population. In the Denver Julesburg and San Juan basins, which experienced substantial O&G development prior to 2000, we observed a larger proportion of lower value homes within 500 feet of an O&G well and that most O&G wells predated houses. In the Piceance Basin, which had not experienced substantial prior O&G development, we observed a larger proportion of high value homes within 500 feet of an O&G well and that most houses predated O&G wells. We observed economic, rural, participatory, and/or distributive injustices that could contribute to health risk vulnerabilities in populations near O&G wells. We encourage policy makers to consider measures to reduce these injustices.