Thursday, December 20, 2012

Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Drilling

Organizations Petition EPA to Protect Public Health from Oil and Gas Emissions Contributing to Harmful Ozone Pollution

Ground-level ozone or "smog" contributes to serious adverse health impacts, including decreased lung function and premature mortality, and it damages foliage.  Children, the elderly, Americans with existing lung and heart disease, and those active outside are especially vulnerable.

On December 19, 2012, a broad coalition of environmental, conservation and children’s health groups petitioned the EPA to take two actions that will provide important public health protections for communities impacted by oil and gas emissions that contribute to harmful ozone pollution:

  • First, we respectfully urge EPA to require broad deployment of ozone air quality monitors in oil and natural gas development areas. Requiring the necessary air monitors will ensure that Americans have clear, transparent information about whether the air in their communities meets the nation's health-based air quality standards for ground-level ozone or "smog" pollution as oil and natural gas operations in their communities expands briskly.
  • Second, we respectfully ask that EPA provide communities with tools to help reduce smog-forming pollution from oil and gas development by issuing control technology guidelines (“CTGs”) for oil and gas equipment. These clean air measures can be some of the single most cost-effective methods for reducing smog-forming pollution in areas that violate the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone as well as those areas seeking to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards under the Ozone Advance Program.

RED, Active Rigs (Sept. 2012); BLUE, Ozone Monitors; SHADED, Population Density.
The Press Release is here.  The Petition is here [PDF, 34 pages].

Energy experts say drilling can be made cleaner
Scientists are concerned about effects of emissions on climate change and health impacts of breathing smog, soot and other pollutants.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.

The answer appears to be that drilling can be safe or it can be dangerous. Industry practices, enforcement, geography and even snow cover can minimize or magnify air pollution problems.

Some environmentalists say if leaks and pollution can be minimized, the boom has benefits, since gas burns much cleaner than coal, emitting half the carbon dioxide.

Al Gore told The Associated Press that it's "not irresponsible" to look at gas as a short-term substitute for coal-fired electricity. But Gore added that the main component of gas, methane, is a more potent heat-trapping greenhouse gas than CO2. That means that if large quantities leak, the advantage over coal disappears, the former vice president said.

Prasad Kasibhatla, a professor of environmental chemistry at Duke University, said that controlling gas drilling pollution is "technically solvable" but requires close attention by regulators.

"One has to demonstrate that it is solved, and monitored," he said.

Link to the full report is here.

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