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AP: Texas gas drilling disproportionately impacts residents of color

Wanda Vincent points to a natural gas well site a few hundred feet from her day care center, Mother’s Heart Learning Center in Arlington, Texas, Oct. 23, 2021. The well site is operated by TEP Barnett, a subsidiary of French energy giant Total Energies. The company is asking the city of Arlington for permission to add three wells at the site, despite opposition from Vincent, parents with children at the day care and neighborhood residents. (AP Photo / Martha Irvine)

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Led by New York-based energy reporter Cathy Bussewitz and Chicago-based national writer Martha Irvine, a team of AP journalists exclusively documenting the potential health impact of an alarming series of events in residential areas of Arlington, Texas: Literally in the shadow of Mother’s Heart Learning Center, a day care center that primarily serves Black and Latino children, a French company is pumping for natural gas — and seeking to drill three new wells

The AP’s all-formats story not only captured the stories of families facing heightened risks,it also put their stories in the context of a trend with far-reaching consequences: Despite pledges from global leaders to embrace cleaner energy,the world’s reliance on natural gas is growing.

Seizing on a tip from area activists,Bussewitz and Irvine traveled to Texas,where they spoke with mothers exasperated with government inaction,residents who endure noise and vibrations just outside their backyards,and people who often breathe dangerous fumes, including one who developed asthma.

Collaborating with Irvine on the reporting,Bussewitz took the lead on writing while multiformat specialist Irvine shot the video and photos,consulting on the photo selection with editors Maye-E Wong and Swayne Hall.

The story was buttressed by two exclusive data analyses,including one by data journalist Angeliki Kastanis that found the density of wells in a given neighborhood correlated with the proportion of residents of color.

Digital storytelling producer Peter Hamlin created a video explainer and graphic artist Francois Duckett developed an interactive map showing the proximity of wells to day cares. And Dario Lopez,digital storytelling producer for global investigations,built an online presentation that deftly packaged all the components.

The project drew immediate responses on social media,and was used by news outlets across the country,notably in Texas, where newsrooms pride themselves on their energy coverage.

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