Today environmental groups praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) vital updates to nationwide air quality protections to include oil and natural gas production. This is the first federal safeguard aimed at curbing air pollution from hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’
"Left to its own devices, the oil and gas industry has turned the clear skies over Wyoming as smoggy as the car-choked highways of Los Angeles." Above: Pinedale Anticline Natural Gas Field, upper Green River valley, Wyoming. (SkyTruth)
The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) will benefit the health of Americans and our environment in many ways. 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.
Today’s announcement by the EPA is a major step forward. However, the two-and-a-half-year delay in reducing pollution from wellheads is an unnecessary setback because industry can meet those standards now. The environmental community is committed to working with EPA to strengthen the public health and air quality safeguards to protect families who live near existing fracking sites.
The EPA proposed the updated safeguards in July 2011. Since the proposal, environmental groups submitted more than 156,000 comments and turned out hundreds of supporters of strong standards to hearings in Pittsburgh, PA, Denver, CO, and Arlington, TX.
In response to EPA’s announcement, environmental leaders released the following statements:
“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is taking an important first step in closing loopholes for the natural gas industry and addressing dangerous air quality levels in and near frack-fields across the country,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “The natural gas industry dumps massive amounts of air pollutants into our air every day, sickening families and children. An industry that touts its ability to efficiently drill thousands of wells thousands of feet into the earth is crying wolf when it claims it can’t build enough tanks to capture wellhead pollution. It’s time we clean up the natural gas industry’s dirty and reckless practices.”
“From Colorado to Pennsylvania, the gas industry is making a killing from drilling, and at the very least they should cut dirty and dangerous air pollution that threatens our families’ health,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America. “EPA’s action today is a breath of fresh air for every man, woman, and child living in the shadow of the gas drilling boom.”
“Left to its own devices, the oil and gas industry has turned the clear skies over Wyoming as smoggy as the car-choked highways of Los Angeles. For decades, industry had a free pollution pass. Thanks to a court victory, that changes today,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. “There is more work to be done to protect Americans living near oil and gas fields from cancer and other unacceptable health threats, but this rule from EPA is an important first step.”
“The stories of families hurt by gas drilling’s air pollution were essential to the adoption of these new public health safeguards,” said Bruce Baizel, senior attorney for Earthworks. “Hopefully this much-needed first step will soon be expanded to better protect the families that illustrated the need for the new rules in the first place.”
"These important rules start to cut down on air pollution that harms people living near wells, creates smog, and warms the climate," said David McCabe, senior scientist with Clean Air Task Force. "They are a solid start, but we need to keep working to reduce pollution from the gas industry all the way from the well to the customer. People who live near compressors and equipment already in use need to see their air cleaned up as well. Unfortunately these rules won’t do that."
“Our members in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado have suffered because state regulators haven’t acted to control oil and gas operations, so these standards are a win-win-win,” said Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action National Campaigns Director. “They protect people from air pollution, help curb climate change and save the industry money. People expect the federal government to use their authority to protect their health, their drinking water and the air they breathe and this is a good first step.”