New EPA Air Standards to Address Hydraulic Fracturing

Article excerpt

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new air pollution standards in April meant to reduce harmful emissions associated with the extraction of natural gas from fractured wells, also known as fracking.

The process of fracking had been criticized by some environmentalists for polluting the air near the wells, and the updated standards, required by the Clean Air Act, will reduce 95 percent of harmful emissions, EPA said in a statement. At the same time, the standards will continue to allow the collection of natural gas, which is considered an important resource.

"By ensuring the capture of gases that were previously released to pollute our air and threaten our climate, these updated standards will not only protect our health, but also lead to more product for fuel suppliers to bring to market," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "They're an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe."

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According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, gas rushing from a well in the first few days after it is tapped is one of the largest sources of air pollution from fracking. Gases released include benzene, methane and other volatile organic compounds.

The new requirements are similar to those already put in place by some states and require companies to use already-existing technology to collect gas that might otherwise escape the well. That captured gas can subsequently be sold, which makes the rule cost-effective, EPA said. Companies have until January 2015 to install the new gas-capture methods.

The council called the new standards "a critical step toward protecting our kids, our communities and our planet," but said that EPA still needs to do more. …