Sour Wind in West Texas

Illegal air pollution from the booming oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin is causing unhealthy air pollution levels in West Texas, but the state has not installed enough air quality monitors there to protect local residents, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

EIP’s study used industry self-reported pollution data and an EPA-approved computer model to examine the impacts of unauthorized sulfur dioxide emissions in and around Ector County (which has 156,000 residents, including 117,000 in Odessa). The study demonstrates that flaring of “sour” gas is causing dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide pollution in Ector County and Odessa.

According to EIP’s analysis, from 2014 through 2017, roughly 35 percent of Ector County experienced sulfur dioxide air pollution levels in excess of the level set by EPA as the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. By federal law, exceedances of these standards trigger a requirement for states to issue more stringent pollution control permits.