Protecting Americans From Natural Gas Air Pollution

© Mark Schmerling

Peter Wray has little confidence in his state government these days. The Pennsylvania resident and chair of the Allegheny Sierra Club’s conservation committee has watched the natural gas industry benefit from lax pollution rules and push policymakers to establish loopholes for the industry.

"Because of the many facets of shale gas drilling, from health to economy, to forest fragmentation to air quality, to waste water disposal - a volunteer could spend all their time working on this issue," says Peter, who does spend a significant portion of his Sierra Club volunteering on natural gas concerns.

At issue now is the massive air pollution caused by natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking." Air pollution from fracking dumps hundreds of thousands of tons of smog-forming chemicals, toxics, and climate-disrupting pollution into our air.

In Pennsylvania, fracked wells from the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom are venting unchecked pollution into formerly untouched forests. For another harrowing example, in Dallas/Fort Worth pollution from natural gas fields is worse than the exhaust of all the cars in those cities.

"This is why we are supporting air pollution safeguards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for we see no other means of protecting our communities," says Peter.

EPA's proposed standards to limit air pollution from fracking are a big first step in protecting our health from the dangerous stew of pollution that fracked wells pour into our air. EPA is about to release those rules, but fracking lobbyists are pulling out all the stops to delay these safeguards and fill them with loopholes.

Right now, the American Petroleum Institute (API) - an industry group only interested in their bottom line when it comes to fracking - is waging an eleventh hour battle to weaken air pollution rules for natural gas drilling. Big Oil and Gas have taken this fight to the White House, as well.

These safeguards are critical to communities plagued by air pollution from fracking. The existing safeguards are more than twenty years old and don't cover most sources of air pollution in the gas industry.

EPA's rules are based on commonly used controls that would capture pollution from wells at very low costs. In fact, because companies can resell natural gas that would otherwise leak, the rules may even pay for themselves. There is no excuse for industry efforts to weaken these common sense safeguards.

We cannot allow the gas industry to benefit from more loopholes while public health and our communities suffer. EPA's safeguards are needed to begin clearing the air.

"Shale gas drilling is an immediate environmental threat to our local communities, and development of the industry across the Pennsylvania landscape has the real potential to place certain regions in the category of 'third-world extractive' economies without adequate environmental protection," Peter says.

Now we need your help to remind the President what we want - clean air and no loopholes for the fracking industry. In this year'' State of the Union, President Obama made a commitment to protect our communities from fracking pollution.

It's time to tell President Obama to stand up to gas companies and their lobbyists: Say no to loopholes, and put the health of our communities first!

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | Energy | Environmental Policy | EPA | Fracking | Natural Gas | Pennsylvania

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