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.
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California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
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By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.