More bad air from natural gas operations around the country

Recently I blogged about the new rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rein in some of the most toxic air pollutants being spewed into communities by the oil and gas industry. There have been important data from communities around the country where air sampling has found extraordinarily dangerous levels of toxic air pollutants, and where Americans are experiencing serious health symptoms they think are related to the air pollution. Here is the latest information I've come across:

  • in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, Pam Judy reports that a compressor station on her neighbor's property has led to her family experiencing many symptoms, including nose bleeds, vertigo, mouth blisters, extreme headaches, fatigues, vomiting, and emergency room visits. Air sampling detected 16 chemical compounds, including benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, hexane, heptane, acetone, acrolein, propene, carbon tetrachloride and  chloromethane. Judy's family lives in a home built in 2006 on a family farm, but she says no one will buy it.
  • Earlier this year I blogged on air sampling in Colorado and New Mexico that found high levels of dangerous air pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide, near natural gas production sites. A Colorado oil and gas trade association responded that hydrogen sulfide does not occur naturally in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado. Shortly after, public reports surface from an industry worker in western Colorado, who shared a 2009 experience when he and a co-worker were working at a drilling rig and were exposed to high levels of hydrogen sulfide. He became very ill, and his co-worker died within days. OSHA cited the company for inadequate training of its employees with regard to hydrogen sulfide and with failing to provide workers with adequate safety equipment. More recently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission searched its records and found that one company reported encounters with hydrogen sulfide in the vast majority of its wells in western Colorado -- 313 times in 353 wells. NRDC has been saying for years that hydrogen sulfide is a dangerous pollutant that needs to be added to the federal list of hazardous air pollutants for regulation. Legislation introduced by Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado would do just that.
  • I have blogged about our concerns that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service have approved new oil and gas development projects without conducting the proper environmental review of air quality impacts. We are concerned about air quality in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and more. Now, the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EPA, agreeing on a new process to determine which type of air quality analyses are appropriate, when air modeling is necessary, and specific provisions for analyzing impacts to air quality and mitigating such impacts.