The Senate Environmental and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a hearing today on federal protections from air pollution from natural gas development. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the first federal safeguards aimed at curbing air pollution from hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’
Active drilling operations in the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field in Wyoming's Upper Green River Valley in August 2002. Well pads are in various stages of completion. The Wind River Mountains are visible through haze in the distance. (SkyTruth)
The controversial oil and gas development technique—in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force gas from underground deposits—has enabled a drilling boom that has worsened air quality around the country.
The updated standards will result in major reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic benzene and methane, a highly potent contributor to climate disruption. These pollutants are known to cause asthma attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, cancer and even premature death.
The measure will also benefit the gas industry. EPA projects that capturing more methane and other gasses to send to market will save an estimated $11 to 19 million annually.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Legislative Representative Jessica Ennis:
“Americans are rightfully fed up with air pollution from the fracking-enabled drilling boom. For decades, the gas industry has had a free pollution pass. When the clear skies over Wyoming get as smoggy as the car-choked highways of Los Angeles, it’s time for the gas industry to admit that it has a problem.
“The rules proposed by EPA will help keep lung-searing smog and cancer causing pollutants out of our air. And, by sealing up the cracks in the gas industry infrastructure, it will save companies money. It would seem a more savvy industry would see the value in embracing these new measures.”
Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 797-5235
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.