Quantcast

EPA Slated to Protect Clean Air Nationwide from Fracking Today

Energy

WildEarth Guardians

Public health nationwide stands to get a major boost today as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated to sign new safeguards to limit air pollution from oil and gas drilling and fracking.

The expected rules will target toxic air pollution, ensure cost-effective clean air technologies are used throughout the oil and gas industry, and strengthen a critical safety net for public health. 

The proposal was spurred by a settlement agreement reached with WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, in a lawsuit where they were represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice. The settlement requires the EPA to follow through with its mandatory duties under the Clean Air Act to keep air quality regulations up-to-date with science.

On July 28, 2011, the EPA proposed a suite of new safeguards to cost-effectively curb air pollution from fracking and drilling. Most, if not all, of the proposed safeguards reduce air pollution by encouraging the oil and gas industry to recover more oil and gas, a “win-win” solution. Among the highlights of the EPA’s proposal, they would:

  • Generate a net savings of $30 million annually due to increased recovery of methane, otherwise known as natural gas.
  • Reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 540,000 tons, an industry-wide reduction of 25 percent. VOCs react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog and contain other toxic compounds.
  • Reduce methane emissions by 3.4 million tons, which is equal to 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, a reduction of about 26 percent.  This will be like eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of 15 coal-fired power plants.
  • Reduce toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, a known carcinogen, by 38,000 tons, a 30 percent reduction.

It’s expected the new safeguards will yield similar benefits and will comprehensively update current clean air rules. Current regulations are woefully outdated, with some not updated since 1985, and fail to adequately protect public health and welfare. In a 2010 presentation, the EPA noted that of the 24 significant air pollution sources associated with oil and gas production, only six are covered by the current safeguards.

The rules are coming as oil and gas drilling and fracking is, in many cases, taking a tremendous toll on air quality. A recent New York Times video highlights these impacts.

In western Colorado’s Garfield County for example, oil and gas drilling has increased by more than 132 percent since 2004, bringing more than 7,000 new wells to the region. According to the State of Colorado’s emission inventory data, oil and gas operations in the county are responsible for more than 67 percent of all benzene emissions—a known carcinogen. Studies by the state show that Garfield County residents face higher health risks because of this, in some cases facing an “unacceptable” cancer risk

These findings were confirmed by a peer-reviewed study slated to be published in Science of the Total Environment, which found that people living near fracking stations face increased health risks due to benzene and other toxic compounds.

Unfortunately, current federal regulations fail to limit benzene and other toxic emissions from fracking in order to protect public health.

Nationwide, the safeguards will be the first step toward protecting communities in a number of states with oil and gas operations, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Texas. Because state air quality regulations must at least be as stringent as federal regulations, the final rules will provide a critical important safety net for public health.

For more information, click here.

—————

Stay up-to-date on the latest fracking news by clicking here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Gretchen Goldman

The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.

Read More Show Less
An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The unprecedented drought that has caused a water crisis in Zimbabwe has now claimed the life of at least 55 elephants since September, according to a wildlife spokesman, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maria Dornelas.

By John C. Cannon

Life is reshuffling itself at an unsettling clip across Earth's surface and in its oceans, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
An Exxon station in Florida remains open despite losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Florida Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Withers

The country's largest fossil fuel company goes on trial today to face charges that it lied to investors about the safety of its assets in the face of the climate crisis and potential legislation to fight it, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
El Niño's effect on Antarctica is seen in a tabular iceberg off of Thwaites ice shelf. Jeremy Harbeck / NASA

El Niños are getting stronger due to climate change, according to a new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Julia Ries

  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Additionally a new study found one patient developed resistance to a last resort antibiotic in a matter of weeks.
  • Health experts say antibiotic prescriptions should only be given when absolutely necessary in order to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the greatest public health threats.

Read More Show Less
Pexels


There are hundreds of millions of acres of public land in the U.S., but not everyone has had the chance to hike in a national forest or picnic in a state park.

Read More Show Less
Workers attend to a rooftop solar panel project on May 14, 2017 in Wuhan, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

By Simon Evans

Renewable sources of electricity are set for rapid growth over the next five years, which could see them match the output of the world's coal-fired power stations for the first time ever.

Read More Show Less