EPA Finally Issues First Limits on Air Pollution from Natural Gas Fracking
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued federal standards that will begin to curb millions of tons of dangerous air pollution coming from tens of thousands of hydraulically fractured (“fracked”) natural gas wells and other oil and gas production facilities.
“These first-ever EPA limits on dangerous air pollution from natural gas fracking wells are a critical step toward protecting our kids, our communities and our planet,” said Meleah Geertsma, an attorney in Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) climate and clean air program. “But to fulfill President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to develop these resources ‘without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk,’ the EPA needs to do more to protect people living near oil and gas production facilities.”
“The rapid expansion of oil and natural gas drilling without modern air pollution controls has exposed millions of Americans to a toxic brew of cancer-causing, smog-producing and climate-changing air pollutants,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, staff scientist at NRDC. “Left to police itself for too long, the oil and gas industry has failed even to adopt pollution controls that pay for themselves.”
EPA today updated and broadened two Clean Air Act standards to control dangerous air pollution released during natural gas and oil drilling, pumping and distribution through pipelines to refineries and other processing facilities. This pollution is made up of cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause region-wide smog, and methane, a powerful global warming pollutant.
Updated “new source performance standards” and “hazardous air pollutant standards” will require better controls on VOC and toxic emissions at key points in drilling and distribution operations. The VOC pollution controls will also begin capturing methane.
NRDC is pleased that the standards will for the first time require “green completions”—to prevent the huge surge of pollution that now comes from newly fracked and re-fracked natural gas wells—but NRDC is disappointed that EPA has allowed industry more than two and a half years for full compliance. It should not take that long to build more of the truck-mounted rigs that can capture these gases and put them into the pipelines to be sold at a profit instead of leaked into our air.
EPA also needs to set strong standards that directly curb leakage of methane and other dangerous pollutants from the existing wells and operations. An NRDC report, Leaking Profits, released in March, revealed that oil and gas companies can reduce methane waste by 80 percent at a profit, using available technologies that will add $2 billion a year to industry’s bottom line. Doing so would cut total U.S. methane emissions by approximately one third, which is equivalent to the global warming pollution from more than 50 coal-fired power plants.
- To read more about today’s announcement, see a new blog post by David Doniger, policy director of NRDC’s climate and clean air program by clicking here.
- Meleah Geertsma and Miriam Rotkin-Ellman will update their blogs later today with more details on the standards as they become available.
- Follow Geertsma’s blog by clicking here and Rotkin-Ellman’s blog by clicking here.
For more information, click here.
Stay up-to-date on the latest fracking news by clicking here.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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