In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.
The answer appears to be that drilling can be safe or it can be dangerous. Industry practices, enforcement, geography and even snow cover can minimize or magnify air pollution problems.
"It's like a vehicle. Some cars drip oil," said Russell Schnell, deputy director of the federal Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. "You have wells that are absolutely tight. And you have other places where a valve gives out, and you have huge leaks."