Companies using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling to get natural gas and oil from underground rock formations will have more than two years to comply with new federal rules regarding air pollution emitted from active and inactive well sites.
According to Reuters, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given the fracking industry until January 2015 to meet the standards it enacted earlier this week setting limits on air pollution that creates smog and an environmental and public health threat. This allegedly expensive technology would cost the fracking industry billions and that’s the main reason why it hasn’t been accepted as standard until now. Even still, the EPA believes a lack of “clean technology” available to drillers is good cause for the delay.
Despite the new regulations, the delay means those living closest to active fracking wells are likely to suffer under the toxic conditions at current well sites for at least two more years. Once the rules are in place, fracking drillers will have to invest in technology that reduces emissions from fracking wells and storage tanks at those sites which contain drilling fluids.
In addition to the threat fracking poses underground, especially to nearby private water wells and groundwater tables through methane gas another other forms of contamination, recent studies suggest the actual wells and storage tanks at well sites are just as responsible for the toxic nature of the controversial drilling process. Without technology to capture the released gas from well sites, fracking companies have resorted to burning off or releasing the excess fumes into the air.
Neighbors to fracking wells have long complained about their drinking water supply becoming contaminated over time and blame the nearby drilling as the reason. Also, many have also logged complaints of breathing problems and skin and eye irritations they also believe are the result of fracking drilling in their area. Those closest to active wells have even reported having to close and seal the windows of their homes due to highly polluted air surrounding the well sites.
The EPA heard 150,000 different comments from the public, environmental advocacy groups, and industry lobbyists in the 8 months since it first proposed rules on regulating air pollution emissions at fracking sites last July.
Bloomberg suggests the current price of natural gas – which has dropped significantly in recent weeks – may hinder efforts to get the industry on-line with the new rules. When natural gas was at a higher market price, more parallel with the price of oil, collecting this released gas from wells was economically advantageous for fracking companies, even considering the cost of the technology that will be required by the EPA in two years. As the cost of gas has dropped, the report indicates drillers may not be as likely to comply with the new rules.
The EPA estimates that its rules will help reduce air emissions at fracking wells by 95 percent eventually and that the regulations will govern up to 13,000 new wells dug each year across the country.