Fracking Air Pollution Study Disputed by Industry Group

A hydraulic fracturing (fracking) advocate has offered some sharp criticism of a safety study released earlier this week connecting active fracking wells with the release of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are affecting public health.

According to a report from International Business Times (, Energy in Depth offered a response to the study from Colorado School of Public Health which indicates people living within a half-mile of an active fracking well are more prone to dangerous air pollutants being released at the gas wells.

In that study which we reported on earlier this week, university researchers found levels of VOCs within a half-mile radius of a fracking well to be five-times the safe limit, a level at which federal standards consider it to be a public safety hazard. Among the more dangerous elements found in air sampling conducted at the test well site were trimethylbenzenes, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes. Samples were taken for three years at several sites in Garfield County, Colo.

Energy in Depth offers a different perspective in its criticism of that report, claiming researchers for the study did not account for all factors which could be increasing the levels of VOCs in the air near the test site. Also, the group said the study look at air samples collected before the state enacted stricter air quality standards at well sites. Specifically, the group said, university research ignored the fact that VOCs could be released by the highway near one of the test sites as VOCs are released from automobile exhaust.

Despite the criticism of the report, university research indicated more studies would need to be completed to determine the impact of the VOCs being released from fracking wells in the state, and likely across the country. In its response to that study earlier this week, the American Lung Association said its testing revealed that levels of ozone in some parts of Wyoming, where thousands of fracking wells have also been drilled, are comparable to that of a major metropolitan area, indicating that fracking drilling is responsible for at least some major spike in air pollution.

The study release from Univ. of Colorado is not the first and likely won’t be the last to link or associate fracking drilling for natural gas and oil to air or water pollution. In fact, recent testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency indicates fracking near Pavilion, Wyo., is also responsible for localized contamination of private water wells, namely with agents like benzene and methane gas. The EPA is now conducting similar water quality tests near Dimock, Pa., the epicenter of the latest massive expansion of fracking drilling in the U.S. There, too, residents complain that fracking drilling is responsible for water and air contamination, especially to those living closest to active wells.

Numerous other studies and plenty of real-life reports of fracking gone awry have accumulated in recent years as the U.S. allows of drilling boom in an attempt to offset the nation’s dependence on foreign oil sources. At every step along the way, for each study which links fracking to some form of environmental or health hazard, either fracking drillers, natural gas companies, or organizations friendly with either have been quick to offer their own take.

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