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Why the EPA Needs to Regulate Fracking Air Emissions Management

With the EPA being forced to regulate air emissions from the fracking process under the CAA, many people are raising questions about the real dangers behind fracking.

Similar to the Boiler MACT controversy, where regulations were put on hold for further consideration, the recent delay of air emissions management regulations for fracking is a case of the EPA needing more time to digest an outpour of public comments.

The agency asked for an extension to fully address issues that were raised by more than 156,000 public comments on the proposed rules.

But why exactly does the EPA need to regulate pollution from fracking?

David Doniger, in a recent article for the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains the dangers from fracking air pollution - and also how leading companies are making money by controlling the dangerous emissions from fracking operations:


Image Source: Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, “Proposed Rules for Green Completions” presentation June 27, 2008

EPA Fracking Regulations: Air Emissions Management Burden or Boon?

"One of the biggest sources of dangerous air pollution from natural gas “fracking” is the whoosh of pollution that rushes from the well, like popping the top on a soda can, in the first few days after fracking is completed and the well is about to start production. What comes out are hundreds of tons of chemicals ranging from cancer-causing benzene, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and climate-changing methane. 

Across the industry, which fracks or refracks more than 20,000 wells each year, that amounts to millions of tons of pollution that does serious harm to human health and the environment.

These are not only dangerous pollutants.  They are also wasted products that can be recovered at a profit – across the industry, more than a half a trillion cubic feet of wasted gas.

Here's an image -- a graph, overlaid on a Google picture -- showing the highly-elevated methane concentrations measured directly downwind of natural gas wells and related equipment.

Later today, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to issue common-sense and money-saving standards to begin curbing this pollution by requiring drillers to undertake “green completions” (also called “reduced emission completions”) – using mobile, trailer-mounted tanks and equipment pictured below to capture these gases before they escape into the air and route them back into pipelines for sale as natural gas and other valuable chemicals.

NRDC documented the savings available from green completions and nine other pollution control measures in a report called Leaking Profits, steps that could recover hundreds of billions of cubic feet of natural gas -- climate-changing methane that would otherwise leak into the air -- and increase companies’ profits by $2 billion per year. "


With the proposed new rules coming out this week, will we see further backlash from industry to any new proposed air emissions management regulations, or will we see new leaders moving to take advantage of the possible money making possibilities, and creating new jobs for engineers?

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This post was written by Ross O'Lochlainn