EPA makes deal on air pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency agreed to give natural gas producers more time to install equipment to control air pollution at wells that use hydraulic fracturing.
This drilling method, commonly known as fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure in order to crack open layers of rock to make oil and natural gas accessible. Fracking has made it much easier to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations, a big reason why oil and natural gas production is up in the U.S. But fracking also can release harmful pollutants into the air.
Under a final rule announced today by the EPA, natural gas producers will have until 2015 to install emissions reduction technology known as “green completion.” Many fracking wells already use this technology, which prevents smog-causing volatile organic compounds from escaping into the atmosphere. This equipment also reduces emissions of cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.
Natural gas producers asked the EPA to phase in the requirement to use this technology, contending there isn’t enough equipment available today to install in all of the nation’s 13,000 fracking wells. The agency agreed a transition period was needed. Until 2015, fracking wells that don’t have this equipment will be required to control air pollution by burning gases through a process known as flaring.
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