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

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Nov 1;50(21):11471-11480. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b04391. Epub 2016 Oct 13.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colorado
  • Humans
  • Oil and Gas Fields*
  • Population Density*
  • Social Justice
  • Water Wells