EPA Proposes Fracking Air Pollution Rules

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first ever federal rule to limit air pollution from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. According to a report from Bloomberg News, the proposed rule is part of a package of new regulations aimed at reducing pollution from oil and natural gas exploration and production.

The EPA said that pollution would by reduced by capturing gas that escapes during extraction, and making that gas available for sale, Bloomberg reported. The agency asserts this would make the rules cost effective, as it would cost oil and gas producers around $754 million to comply with them in 2015, while the estimated value of the gas made available for sale is $783 million.

“This administration has been clear that natural gas is a key component of our clean energy future, and the steps announced today will help ensure responsible production of this domestic energy source,” Gina McCarthy, assistant EPA administrator for air and radiation, said in a statement.

Not surprisingly, the energy industry is resisting the new rules, according to Bloomberg. The American Petroleum Institute in Washington, the largest U.S. oil and gas lobby, says the rules aren’t needed and has requested they be delayed until August 2012. However, the EPA faces a court imposed deadline to propose new rules, following a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, and is scheduled to adopt the regulations by February 28.

In fracking, a cocktail of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the ground at high pressure to shake gas and oil deposits loose. Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally-occurring hazardous substances or as a result of spills or leaks involving fracking fluid or fracking wastewater.

Emissions from fracking have also caused concerns over increased air pollution. According to Bloomberg, fracking has been tied to a rise in smog pollution in rural areas such as western Wyoming, and oil and gas production and processing account for almost 40 percent of all U.S. methane emissions. Methane is considered a greenhouse gas and has been blamed for climate change. Oil and gas production emissions have been linked to increased cancer risks, asthma attacks and premature death.

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