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By Cord Briggs, National Programs Intern Do you breathe air? Then I have some good news for you!  On July 28th the EPA released a suite of new regulations that, for the first time, will control airborne emissions from oil and gas wells, and specifically those drilled using the risky practice of hydro-fracking.  This is truly a win-win-win.  Not only will the public reap the benefit of cleaner air (and water), but greenhouse gas emissions will drop, and the petroleum industry will actually end up making more money! It works like this, when a natural gas well is first drilled or fracked huge amounts of natural gas along cancerous toxins, fracking fluid, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), water, and the -greenhouse gas methane are released in what is know as “flowback.”   Flowbacks spew these dangerous pollutants into the environment for anywhere from three to ten days. Unsurprisingly, flowbacks are currently unregulated! With these new standards the EPA will require that all gas wells use an existing technology known as “green completion”. It’s already mandated by Wyoming and Colorado, where fracking is taking off.   Green completions use special equipment to capture not only noxious chemical and toxins from flowbacks, but also excess natural gas and methane. The gas an methane can be sold at profit.  In fact, the EPA estimates that the petroleum industry will save 29 million dollars through the collection of these gases. Moreover, the new standards will lead to big drops in harmful emissions.  The EPA estimates that by 2015 they will cut:
  • VOCs by 54,000 tons, a 25% industry wide reduction
  • Methane emissions by 3.4 million tons
  • Air Toxics by 38,000 tons
These drops are significant and will cut down on smog, health problems, and global warming.  They are especially important because fracking is growing rapidly, from Upstate New York to Inland California. 25,000 new and existing wells fractured or refractured every year. EPA is mandated to take final action on these regulations by February 28, 2012. The agency is currently taking public comment  until October 23rd.  Additionally, three public hearings are scheduled for September 27th, 28th, and 29th in Pittsburgh,  Denver and Arlington, Texas.  We're hosting a press conference during the Pittsburgh hearing - come on out! We all need to tell the EPA to stand strong on air quality standards in the face of corporate backlash, either through writing or in person.  Let’s make this the first step toward laws that will protect America’s waters as well as our air from fracking and other hazardous fossil fuel extraction.