Gas Drilling Impact On Air Quality Being Studied

aerialgascheck1As thousands of shale gas wells are poked into the ground and compressor stations are installed across much of Pennsylvania, their impact on air quality is unknown. But federal laws that require states to limit emissions and protect public health are in place and will be enforced. Those were the central messages delivered during a recent public meeting sponsored by the Natural Gas Resource Center at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. Speaker was Nick Lazor, chief of the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Air Quality Monitoring Division. Lazor is responsible for the state’s Ambient Air Monitoring Network, which assures compliance with federal regulations.

“Looking at the big picture, air quality is better in Pennsylvania,” Lazor said. “Are people still being adversely affected? Yes. But we’re pushing industries continually and it will continue to get better.”

He acknowledged that some people are frustrated by the complexities and delays that are inherent in the science of air quality monitoring, especially when it comes to wells, compressors, ponds, condensate tanks and other elements of gas production. Lazor said data from short-term air monitoring projects have been analyzed and a long-term study was launched in July. By next summer, the data will be collected and findings will be reported by early 2014 at the latest. He shared with the audience two findings from DEP’s short-term study:

  • Concentrations of methane, propane, butane, and associated compounds were detected near shale gas drilling operations; elevated methane levels were detected at compressor stations and well sites. Certain compounds, mainly methyl mercaptan (element added to gas to produce an odor), were detected at levels which produce odors.
  • Results did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues. Sampling for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone did not detect concentrations above federal standards at any of the sites.

“The results confirm that the natural-gas production infrastructure in general is a source of pollutant emissions through fugitive and/or direct means,” the report stated. Now, Lazor said, DEP needs to have the larger collection of data to determine any specific or cumulative effect that could be a risk to the environment and human health.

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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