Monday, April 16, 2012

Hinchey Calls for Air Quality Standards to Protect People in Gas Drilling Areas

A fracking operation near a home in PA

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (NY) is calling on President Barack Obama to enforce stronger protections from air pollution caused by shale gas drilling. In a letter signed by 20 of his House colleagues, Hinchey asks for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New Source Performance Standards to be finalized. These standards will address growing air pollution and public health impacts related to the rapid expansion of drilling in the United States, Hinchey says.

“We need the President to act immediately to sign off on the proposed air quality standards so that drillers cannot pollute our air without consequence,” Hinchey told the press. “We cannot let the rush to drill blind us from the need to ensure the safety of our environment and public health.”

Hinchey pointed to the pollutants that shale gas drilling emits: smog-forming chemicals, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), hazardous air pollutants such as benzene, and methane. These pollutants contribute to serious health problems. He highlighted a recent report published by the Colorado School of Public Health. The report, based on three years of air quality monitoring, found higher cancer, respiratory and neurological health risks (including headaches, chronic dizziness, eye irritation and difficulty breathing) among people living closest to drilling sites.

People living near wells breathed in volatile organic chemicals at five times the level at which the emissions are considered potentially harmful to public health, Hinchey noted. He also pointed to the Medical Society of New York which recently urged caution with expanded drilling and called for more study on those impacts before more drilling moves forward. 

The EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standards, when fully implemented, would cause significant air pollution reductions, including: 540,000 tons of smog-forming chemicals, an industry-wide reduction of 25 percent; 38,000 tons of toxic air pollutants, an industry-wide reduction of almost 30 percent, and; 3.4 million tons of methane, an industry-wide reduction of about 26 percent.  The lion’s share of these reductions come from ending the wasteful practice of venting or flaring pollution from new hydraulically fractured gas wells directly into the atmosphere, said Hinchey. The new rules would require companies to capture these emissions, a time-tested technique that can be readily implemented.

You can read his letter to the President here.

1 comment:

  1. Living on the NY side of the NY/PA border, we are already experiencing air quality impacts here from PA drilling, even if NY ultimately decides not to drill. Also, the whole planet is impacted by methane emissions, due to global warming. At a minimum, we need these standards implemented. Greater reductions or eliminations would be even more helpful.