NM bill proposes energy companies to compensate field worker's health care costs related to air pollution

Morgan Lee reports for the Associated Press about New Mexico oil field workers with ailments caused by smog and methane could possibly seek health care reimbursements under a measure proposed by Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez.

In a nutshell:

The proposed legislation mandates that oil and natural gas companies across the country contribute to a trust that would reimburse workers for health expenses linked to methane and smog-related ailments, including respiratory issues such as asthma. The bill's inspiration comes from concerns voiced by oil field workers in southeastern New Mexico and aims to address health disparities while shifting away from the previous pro-oil stance of Vasquez's Republican predecessor. The bill's details were unveiled in Hobbs, accompanied by testimonials from oil workers and advocates for immigrant rights, echoing concerns about industry practices and the need for fair compensation. The bill draws parallels with a compensation program for coal miners with black lung disease established under a 1969 law.

Key quote:

“In reality my heart breaks because we’re left with the effects of this industry and the corporations that don’t pay what they should for it to be a just system,” Rep. Vasquez said in Spanish.

The big picture:

Exposure to methane and smog poses significant health risks, especially for workers in the oil and gas industry. These individuals are vulnerable to respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and decreased lung function due to the inhalation of polluted air. Smog, a noxious combination of pollutants, can irritate the respiratory tract and exacerbate pre-existing conditions, potentially resulting in long-term lung damage and heightened susceptibility to heat-related illnesses among workers who are regularly exposed.

Learn more about the legislation at the Associated Press.

Workers in many industries are exposed to harmful pollutants and chemicals. For example, PFAS are an important, but understudied, source of on-the-job chemical exposure, writes Grace van Deelen.

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