It’s been ten years since a gas well exploded near Deb Thomas’s house in Wyoming.

Fracking drilling site
Fracking drill site in Pavillion Muddy ridge gas field in Wyoming. Photo credit: Pavilion Area Concerned Citizens.

Thomas: “It blew for three days. They didn’t have a heavy enough mud to stop the blowout. Twenty-five houses evacuated.”

Demand for natural gas has grown, in part because burning it creates less global warming pollution than coal. But Thomas wanted better regulations. So after the explosion, she left her job in restaurant management and began organizing others to demand tougher laws.

Thomas: “For fifteen years, we worked on trying to change laws and regulation and we had some success.”

But a decade later, the wells are still there and local water is still contaminated.

Thomas: “The reality for me was regulation was not protecting any of the people that I knew because it just wasn’t happening fast enough. I really felt like what was needed was proof and data to show through air testing and water testing what this industry is doing.”

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Now Thomas teaches people how to measure air, water and soil pollution. She helps them test contamination levels in their backyards and document the results. She hopes that by gathering data, communities can better protect themselves from the consequences of fracking.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...