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“We must speak up,” Local group’s pollution claims spark change at Oklahoma oil site

STILLWATER, Okla. – A local group’s complaints have sparked a change to reduce air pollution at an oil well site near Stillwater.

In 2016, Earthworks and Stop Fracking Payne County captured video of invisible pollution coming from oil and gas sites.

Earthworks brought their $100,000 infrared camera to several different well sites in Payne and Kay counties.

“It looks at sites like this and it can show the plumes of gases that are leaking from the site,” Dakota Raynes, a member of Stop Fracking Payne County, told KFOR.

The group’s Forward Looking Infrared camera captured gases escaping from a tank.

“Highest possibility for oil and gas is methane which is an even worse greenhouse gas emission than carbon dioxide,” said Raynes.  “Oftentimes, leaks are coming from the tops of tanks.”

The groups used the video to file a formal complaint with the Department of Environmental Quality against the White Star Petroleum 'Duncan' well pad, located just south of Stillwater.

"It’s a game-changer to expose this otherwise invisible air pollution and allow communities, residents, and neighbors to see the pollution for the first time,” said Sharon Wilson, Earthworks’ Senior Organizer and certified thermographer. “Oftentimes people have smelled or suspected pollution for years, but never had the proof. Earthworks’ camera provides evidence, and as we see today filing a complaint turns that evidence into real action that helps the whole community.”

On Wednesday, the group received a final inspection report from DEQ. In the inspection, DEQ inspectors found air pollution at the site and contacted White Star.

As a result, the company purchased and installed new hatches for their leaking tanks.

“This action shows why we must speak up when we see, smell, or hear something possibly problematic at an oil and gas facility in our community,” said Kel Pickens, co-founder of Stop Fracking Payne County. “Oklahoma is no stranger to oil and gas pollution. One way we can protect our health and climate from pollution is by reporting possible problems to the regulators whose job it is to solve them.”