The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new air pollution rules for oil and gas production today. The regulations are the first national standards for emissions from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, a controversial practice used to extract natural gas in the Barnet Shale and in South Texas, among other places.
"Reducing these emissions will help cut toxic pollution that can increase cancer risks and smog that can cause asthma attacks and premature death,” EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy said in a news release.
People who live near fracking operations have long expressed heath concerns. Air quality tests conducted in 2009 in the north Texas town of Dish, near the Barnett Shale, found high benzene levels.
"Before my kid gets leukemia, before other kids get leukemia, it's time to quit all the testing and get something done,” Dish mayor Calvin Tillman told the Associated Press in January, 2010.
The Wall Street Journal reports that EPA’s proposals target gas that is escaping drilled wells while they are being prepared for production.
EPA is proposing to reduce the emissions by requiring the use of special equipment to separate oil and gas from a mix of "fracking" fluids and water that flows to the surface during one stage of well completion. The proposed rules would apply to more than 25,000 wells a year, as well as to storage tanks and other pieces of equipment used by the oil and gas industry.
State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) issued a statement praising the EPA proposal, calling it a “win-win” for producers and residents.
"I applaud the EPA for these common-sense proposals that will improve air quality and reduce smog pollution in the Barnett Shale,” Burnam said.