Fracking Prompts Air Pollution Worries

A West Virginia environmentalist called on regulators to address air quality issues related to the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Speaking at the West Virginia Water Conference this week, Don Garvin of the West Virginia Environmental Council said trucks and other equipment at drill sites contribute to smog, and should be monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“When you get an array of 50 trucks on a job, from my standpoint, that’s a stationary source. It may be temporary, but it’s putting out a huge amount of pollution,” Garvin told a crowd of several hundred gathered for the conference.

Studies show one natural gas well can generate up to 1,300 round trips by truckers heading to and from the site while it’s being fracked.

Drillers are already required to report emissions from stationary sources such as compressor stations to the EPA. Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, told that trucks have never been considered stationary sources. However, both the EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are looking at the issue now.

Other areas where fracking is prevalent have already had their share of air pollution worries. In Texas for example, researchers at the University of Texas analyzed data from satellites to measure the amount of nitrogen oxides in the air in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for a month in 2006. They found as much as 20 percent more nitrogen oxides (or NOX) in the air than models formulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had predicted for the same time period. Some believe the increase stems from fracking in the Barnett shale.

“When you go outside and measure, the levels of NOX are going down everywhere. The exception is Tarrant County, particularly the western area,” Al Armendariz, the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas, recently told the Star-Telegram.

Currently, the TCEQ is conducting an inventory of drilling-related sources of pollution to get a better idea of the emissions produced in the Barnett Shale.

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