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Environment

EPA Takes Aim At Fracking Emissions

by Glenn Hess
August 29, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 35

EPA is proposing new regulations aimed at limiting air pollution from oil and natural gas drilling operations, including the first standard for wells that are hydraulically fractured. The proposal would trim emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds by about one-fourth, with an almost 95% reduction in such discharges from new and updated gas wells using fracturing technology. The drilling technique, commonly known as fracking, involves the injection of water, sand, and chemical additives into shale rock formations to release trapped hydrocarbons. The practice has been tied to an increase in smog pollution in rural areas, such as eastern Wyoming, where gas drilling is booming. “This Administration has been clear that natural gas is a key component of our clean energy future, and the steps announced will help ensure responsible production of this domestic energy source,” says Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation. EPA estimates the rules will reduce nationwide emissions of volatile organic compounds by 25% and methane by 26%. The agency, which was under a court deadline to propose updated standards after a lawsuit from environmental groups, is required to take final action by Feb. 28, 2012.

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