Bumper stickers in Vernal say, "Honk if you love drilling." Vernal politicians certainly do. Our state lawmakers do, and our Congressional delegation does. With jobs, increased tax base, new community recreation centers, burgeoning store fronts on main street, people with money to spend what's not to like? Well, perhaps burying newborns.
Evidence continues to mount that state and federal regulators have allowed the creation of a pollution nightmare in the Uinta Basin. Most cities with pollution problems have either high ozone, like Los Angeles, or high particulate pollution, like Salt Lake City, depending on the time of year. But in the last few years Vernal has experienced both simultaneously, making it unique and one of the most polluted areas of the country. The two can act synergistically to impair human health.
But the most dangerous byproducts of the oil and gas industry are the VOCs think benzene, toluene, xylene extremely hazardous compounds known to cause cancer and birth defects at minimal exposures. Every one of the more than 11,000 wells in the area leaks VOCs. Last month a study revealed concentrations of VOCs in the atmosphere of the Uinta Basin are equivalent to the tail pipe emissions of 100 million cars, eight times more cars than in the Los Angeles Basin. The researchers said the VOC levels were "200-300 times above regional and seasonal background" and "among the highest ever reported."