Senate Committee Examines EPA Rule on Air Pollution from Fracking

Article excerpt

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works' Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety held a hearing on June 19 to review new EPA air standards for hydraulically fractured natural gas wells and oil and natural gas storage.

The EPA rule, which was finalized on April 18, includes the first-ever national standards on air pollution from gas produced in wells using a process known as fracking. Members of the oil and gas industry have criticized the new rule for its potential impact on domestic natural gas production.

Opening statements and comments at the hearing fell along party lines. Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Carper (D-DE) praised the EPA for addressing the lack of fracking regulations in most states, and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) insisted that air pollution is a national issue because it does not follow state boundaries. On the other side, Subcommittee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) criticized the Obama administration for working against the natural gas industry, despite its "all-of-the-above" energy rhetoric. Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) brought up recent EPA controversies and argued that the regulation of fractured wells should be left to the states.

The first panel featured Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, who said the recent rule on air emissions was achievable, would result in cost savings, would reduce air pollution, and would not slow natural gas production. She also described changes made to the final version of the rule in response to industry feedback, which included the introduction of a transition period before the use of reduced emission completions (also known as "green completions") would be required. Green completions capture natural gas that is emitted duing a well's flowback period, preventing the release of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. …