Fracking Impacts: Air Quality

While the national dialogue has focused largely on how hydraulic fracking (fracking) may impact water, there also have been well-documented impact on air quality in areas with active natural gas development, including increases in emissions of methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) as well as an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. (US EPA)

Specifically, averages from Pennsylvania & West Virginia show that it is not uncommon for all stages of natural gas production to burn 29,000 gallons of diesel fuel in approximately five days. And diesel exhaust includes toxic emissions such as benzene, formaldyhyde, and 40 other toxins. 

According to a recent Colorado School of Public Health study, researchers have “calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away].” The study also concluded that “benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios.”

The U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior, other Federal agencies and individual states are working to better characterize and reduce air emissions from natural gas development and fracking and their associated impacts. (U.S. EPA)

Ohio EPA has issued a general permit for air emissions. However, it only covers the production stage of the process. It does not include clearing the land, the drilling phase, or the completion phase, which is the fracking stage. The Ohio Environmental Council continues to urge the Ohio EPA to regulate all stages of the natural gas industry.