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Air quality impacts of natural gas

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010



Much of the environmental concern over natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has centered on the risk of water pollution. The state’s environmental authorities have also been scrutinizing the impact on air quality. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more on a new report.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection conducted a short-term study of emissions at natural gas operations, including compression stations and a wastewater site. None of the possible pollutants exceeded federal standards for safety, but DEP’s secretary John Hanger cautions that the study is limited. It didn’t look at the cumulative effect of the industry, but just a few sites in Washington County.

Hanger: The infrastructure used to move gas from the drill site to the marketplace has emissions itself, and this industry is going to be huge in Pennsylvania and there will be literally thousands of compression stations and thousands of emissions sources that are required to move the gas.

Joe Minott, the executive director of the Philadelphia-based environmental group Clean Air Council, says the impact is likely to be different as the industry expands.

Minott: The question I have is, whatever it tells us, if we multiply that by 100, 500, by 1000, which is the number of drills that will be in a fairly limited area, what does that mean for the community.

Hanger says he’d like to see long-term studies of emission impacts. But that could depend on the priorities of the next Governor.


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