Proposed Frazer Compressor Adds to Pennsylvania Air Pollution Debate

Article excerpt

If Frazer gets a compressor station, it would be one of nearly 400 across the state complicating the state's air pollution challenge.

Pennsylvania has 385 compressor stations, most used for gas produced in the shale drilling boom, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The stations, which compress gas to get it to move through pipelines, release air pollutants that compound the state's long-standing ozone problem.

"By itself, this compressor station is a relatively, truly minor source of pollution," said Jim Thompson, manager of Allegheny County's Air Quality Program, which is studying a permit application for a compressor station in Frazer.

"That's the whole problem with Marcellus shale," he said. "By themselves, they're relatively insignificant. But when you put them all together, then you may have a very large effect."

Some residents and environmental groups are trying to prevent Superior Appalachian Pipeline from getting the Frazer permit.

Most compressors produce emissions by burning natural gas or diesel fuel. Their biggest air pollutants typically are nitrogen oxides, which help form ozone in the atmosphere, Thompson and others said. Ozone forms when air pollutants mix with sunlight, and while it's mostly an irritant, it attacks lung tissue and can lead to respiratory diseases and asthma, according to health and air experts.

Oil and gas operations in the Barnett shale in Texas likely created more air pollution than cars did in the Dallas region in 2009, according to a report from a Southern Methodist University engineer and commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund. …