Environmental Justice Dimensions of Oil and Gas Flaring in South Texas: Disproportionate Exposure among Hispanic communities

Environ Sci Technol. 2020 May 19;54(10):6289-6298. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.0c00410. Epub 2020 May 5.


Unconventional extraction techniques including hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" have led to a boom in oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford shale play, Texas, one of the most productive regions in the United States. Nearly 400000 people live within 5 km of an unconventional oil or gas well in this largely rural area. Flaring is associated primarily with unconventional oil wells and is an increasingly common practice in the Eagle Ford to dispose of excess gas through combustion. Flares can operate continuously for months and release hazardous air pollutants such as particulate matter and volatile organic compounds in addition to causing light and noise pollution and noxious odors. We estimated ethnic disparities in exposure to flaring using satellite observations from the Visible Infrared Imaging Spectroradiometer between March 2012-December 2016. Census blocks with majority Hispanic (>60%) populations were exposed to twice as many nightly flare events within 5 km as those with <20% Hispanics. We found that Hispanics were exposed to more flares despite being less likely than non-Hispanic White residents to live near unconventional oil and gas wells. Our findings suggest Hispanics are disproportionately exposed to flares in the Eagle Ford shale, a pattern known as environmental injustice, which could contribute to disparities in air pollution and other nuisance exposures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Hydraulic Fracking*
  • Natural Gas
  • Oil and Gas Fields
  • Texas
  • United States


  • Air Pollutants
  • Natural Gas