Pa. reports air pollution from shale gas industry - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Pa. reports air pollution from shale gas industry

Updated:

Pennsylvania's shale gas industry was responsible for about 4% of the total air pollution emitted by all industrial facilities in 2011, according to a first-ever inventory taken by state environmental regulators.

Drillers and other companies involved in the extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale accounted for nearly 9% of the nitrogen oxides and nearly 14% of the volatile organic compounds emitted from all so-called "point" sources of pollution statewide, according to the Department of Environmental Protection tally.

Under federal law, DEP is required to report statewide air emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every three years; 2011 was the first year in which DEP required the shale gas industry to report emissions.

The survey does not take emissions from cars and trucks - the single largest source of air pollution - into account. Nevertheless, it provides an initial snapshot of air pollution caused by drilling rigs, fracking operations, compressor stations and other elements of natural gas production in Pennsylvania's vast Marcellus Shale formation.

The industry produced 16,542 tons of nitrogen oxides and 2,720 tons of volatile organic compounds in 2011, according to the report. By comparison, power plants were a far bigger source of air pollution, contributing 142,749 tons of nitrogen oxides and far greater amounts of soot, carbon monoxide and other pollutants.

Nitrogen oxides are produced during combustion - primary culprits are vehicle exhaust and electrical power plants - and can worsen respiratory conditions like bronchitis and asthma. They also combine with VOCs to form unhealthy ground-level ozone, or smog.

The drilling industry pointed to the numbers as evidence it is having a small impact on air pollution. But some environmentalists expressed concern Friday.

Kevin Stewart, a member of the DEP advisory committee, said he's concerned that shale gas will result in an increasing amount of air pollution as more wells are drilled and fracked and more processing plants, pipelines and compressor stations are built.

"Some people might be surprised at the numbers this relatively early in the natural gas industry expansion," said Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association's mid-Atlantic chapter. "What, as a consequence, should be done preemptively to make sure this doesn't get out of hand as an air pollution control problem?"

But Andrew Paterson, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs at the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the extraction industry's air emissions represent only one side of the pollution ledger. Electrical utilities are switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas, for example, enabling an overall reduction in emissions, he said.

Indeed, the DEP report shows that statewide air emissions from point sources like power plants plummeted between 2008 - when the last inventory was taken - and 2011.

"When you look at the whole picture, you're seeing a decline in emissions," he said Friday. "But even if you are only focused on emissions from drilling and fracking, it's still a very small number when compared to other manmade emissions."

A new study from RAND Corp. tries to quantify the economic impact of drilling-related air pollution in Pennsylvania. The study, released Thursday, estimated that air pollution caused between $7.2 million and $32 million in health and environmental damages for 2011. By comparison, the study estimated a single coal-fired power plant caused $75 million in damages in 2008.

But the study's authors say the air impacts are nevertheless a concern in heavily drilled regions of the state.

"When you compare the industry emissions to all the sources of emissions we have in the state, you could say to yourself, 'Who cares?'" said Aimee Curtright, 1 of the study's co-authors. But "if you're downwind of a (natural-gas) compressor station, and you're a long way from the coal-fired power plant, what matters to you and your health is the compressor station that's upwind. It's a question of where you sit."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • SpotlightSpotlightMore>>

  • Updated

    The Scrappers host “POPS at the Ballpark” featuring the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra

    The Scrappers host “POPS at the Ballpark” featuring the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 2:04 PM EDT2014-04-15 18:04:57 GMT
    NILES, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra are excited to host one of the Valley's premiere summer events, POPS at the Ballpark,More >>
    NILES, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra are excited to host one of the Valley's premiere summer events, POPS at the Ballpark, presented by Stanley E. Shearer with Northwestern Mutual and 21 WFMJ on Saturday, August 23, 2014 at Eastwood Field.More >>
  • Around the WebMore>>

  • Low of 19 degrees in Toledo breaks 139-year record

    Low of 19 degrees in Toledo breaks 139-year record

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 6:34 PM EDT2014-04-16 22:34:39 GMT
    TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Winter temperatures are refusing to go away in northwestern Ohio. The thermometer dropped to 19 degrees in Toledo Wednesday morning, breaking a 139-year-old record for the same dateMore >>
    TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Winter temperatures are refusing to go away in northwestern Ohio. The thermometer dropped to 19 degrees in Toledo Wednesday morning, breaking a 139-year-old record for the same dateMore >>
  • Break-in suspect rescued from Ohio restaurant vent

    Break-in suspect rescued from Ohio restaurant vent

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 6:26 PM EDT2014-04-16 22:26:35 GMT
    MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Police say an Ohio man suspected of breaking into a restaurant overnight became stuck in a ventilation duct, triggered a fire alarm and had to be rescued by emergency responders. TheMore >>
    MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Police say an Ohio man suspected of breaking into a restaurant overnight became stuck in a ventilation duct, triggered a fire alarm and had to be rescued by emergency responders. TheMore >>
  • Brother, 4, shoots 2-year-old after finding gun

    Brother, 4, shoots 2-year-old after finding gun

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 6:18 PM EDT2014-04-16 22:18:24 GMT
    COCHRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A 2-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the face by his 4-year-old brother who found a loaded gun in their northwestern Pennsylvania home while their mother slept. State policeMore >>
    COCHRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A 2-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the face by his 4-year-old brother who found a loaded gun in their northwestern Pennsylvania home while their mother slept. State policeMore >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms