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Oil and gas companies need to keep people safe

Ohioans are familiar with the give and take between the industries that bring jobs that allow us to feed our families and the toll those industries can take on our health and environment. It is an old story here. And one that keeps repeating itself.

In fact, U.S. News and World Report looked at data compiled by Earthworks on which states’ residents are most threatened by oil and gas pollution. Ohio is second only to Texas in that regard, with nearly 3.317 million people living in what the report calls the “threat radius” of 101,160 oil and gas wells, compressors and processors.

Of course, the vast majority of those facilities are in the eastern half of Ohio — a place with a proud industrial heritage that ranges from coal mines and power plants, to chemical plants to steel mills. Doctors (and lawyers) know full well what that has meant for the health of those who fed their families, kept the lights on and kept the country running; and for the communities in which they lived.

“Health research shows that the closer you live and the more you are exposed to oil and gas development, the higher your risk of exposure to toxic air pollution,” Anne Epstein, a doctor and clinical associate professor at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, said, according to U.S. News and World Report. “Seniors are more likely to die, and babies are more likely to be born with congenital heart disease and with complications of pregnancy.”

It is essential then that employers are honest with employees and the communities near their facilities, and that they do everything they can to mitigate the consequences of their extraction. They must also own up to, and be responsible for their mistakes.

Meanwhile, those same employers surely understand it is a win-win if they are PART of Ohio’s energy transition and economic diversification.

But that is tomorrow. Today, this study is a reminder of the balancing act between taking care of the health of the planet and the people living on it, and ensuring we do not cut off their means of maintaining their own quality of life and providing for the rest of the country.

It is up to companies and public officials to ensure those living in a “threat radius” are shielded from harm.

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