More bad air news from natural gas drilling operations around the country

There is a lot of news this week about the dangerous air pollution being generated by natural gas production sites around the country:

  • According to an article in Land Letter, air quality monitors in northeast Utah's Uintah Basin recorded more than a dozen violations of the federal ground-level ozone standard in the first six weeks of 2011.
  • Recent air testing funded by the City of Fort Worth (in the Barnett Shale area of Texas) found high levels of carbon disulfide at three different drilling sites near schools in the city. University of Texas professor Melanie Sattler conducted dispersion modeling based on the test results and found that the air toxics could travel as far as two miles away from the well sites. The Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods has developed recommendations based on the findings, including a recommendation that natural gas wells must be at least one mile from a school to protect children's health. 
  • and related dispersion modeling conducted by the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods Association, According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, at very high levels, carbon disulfide may be life-threatening because of its effects on the nervous system. People who breathed carbon disulfide showed changes in breathing and some chest pains. Studies in animals indicate that carbon disulfide can affect normal functions of the brain, liver, and heart, as well as cause newborn deaths and birth defects.
  • Earlier this week the ozone level in Boulder, Wyoming reached a 1-hour average late in the day of 106 parts per billion (ppb). The current ozone limit is 75 ppb average over 8 hours, so this level did not violate the rules, but it is alarming.
  • Earlier this week the State of Colorado issued the first ever ozone alerts for western Rio Blanco County -- an area with fewer than 3,000 residents.
  • According to a comment posted on my blog, the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming had 5 hours of ozone exceedences during an 8 hour running time earlier this week.

There is a wealth of evidence that natural gas producers can capture harmful air emissions with readily available and affordable equipment. A gaping loophole in the Clean Air Act that gives special treatment to oil and gas producers allows them to avoid complying with the same clean air standards by which other industries must abide. It is time to close the Clean Air Act loophole for oil and gas producers and help clean up the air in these communities.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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