- Michael Bloomberg thumbs FAA ban, plots course to Israel
- California bans full-contact football practices in off-season
- Thune: Downed fighter jets show more evidence of separatist capabilities
- Obama tells DNC fundraising crowd: ‘I’m not overly partisan’
- Chambliss: Downed jet ultimately goes back to Putin
- Perdue strategy: Run against Reid, Obama, Pelosi
- White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming
- ‘Operation Normandy’ set to send 3,500 volunteers to border to ‘stop an invasion’
- Netanyahu’s spokesman: Safe to fly to Israel
- Oregon vandals smear cars with doughnuts, pastries, chocolate bars
EPA targets air pollution from gas drilling boom
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - Faced with a natural gas drilling boom that has sullied the air in some parts of the country, the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed for the first time to control air pollution at oil and gas wells, particularly those drilled using a method called hydraulic fracturing.
The proposal, issued to meet a court deadline, addresses air pollution problems reported in places such as Wyoming, Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado, where new drilling techniques have led to a rush to obtain natural gas that was once considered inaccessible. More than 25,000 wells are being drilled each year by "fracking," a process by which sand, water and chemicals are injected underground to fracture rock so gas can come out.
The proposed regulations are designed to eliminate most releases of smog- and soot-forming pollutants from those wells. New controls on storage tanks, transmission pipelines and other equipment _ at both oil and gas drilling sites on land _ would reduce by a quarter amounts of cancer-causing air pollution and methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, but also one of the most powerful contributors to global warming.
The rules, according to the EPA, actually would save energy companies about $30 million a year because the companies could sell the gas they are forced to collect.
EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy said the steps announced Thursday will help ensure "responsible production" of domestic energy. The agency is also in the process of studying whether hydraulic fracturing is polluting water, research that also could lead to more regulations on the practice.
In March, pollution from natural gas drilling in the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming triggered levels of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, worse than those recorded in Los Angeles, one of the smoggiest cities in the U.S.
In Dish, Texas, a rural town northwest of Dallas, the state's environmental regulators detected levels of cancer-causing benzene, sometimes at levels dangerous to human health, likely coming from industry's 60 drilling wells, gas production pads and rigs, a treating facility and compressor station.
At the same time, a state study in Pennsylvania of air quality near Marcellus Shale drilling sites in four counties found no emissions at levels that would threaten the health of nearby residents or workers.
The gases escape into the atmosphere during drilling, from storage tanks, compressors along pipelines and other equipment. Until now, the EPA has mainly controlled pollution from natural gas processing plants. States have started to crack down on some emissions from well sites, and industry has voluntarily taken steps to reduce pollution.
The American Petroleum Institute, the main lobbying arm of the industry, pressed the agency to push back by six months its February 2012 deadline for finalizing the rules.
Environmental groups, who sued in 2009 to force the EPA to act, said the action Thursday was already overdue.
"Solutions for clearing the air mean keeping more product in the pipelines," said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians, an advocacy group.
Follow Dina Cappiello on Twitter: (at)dinacappiello
TWT Video Picks
Retailer pays a price for getting too close to Obama
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- HURT: The cost of 'free' water in Detroit
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- DEACE: How to go from civil rights icon to bigot in one quote
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq