The rush to capture natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has led to giant compressor stations alongside backyard swing sets, drilling rigs in sight of front porches, and huge flares at gas wells alongside country roads.
Air pollution from fracking includes the fumes breathed in by people nearby, as well as smog spread over a wide region and emissions of the greenhouse gas methane.
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce the first national rules to reduce air pollution at hydraulically fractured ”” fracked ”” wells and some other oil and gas industry operations. The agency estimated that the plan it proposed in July would reduce smog-forming, cancer-causing and climate-altering pollutants from the natural gas industry by about one-fourth.
The final version on Tuesday will show how President Barack Obama’s administration navigates between the nation’s needs for energy and health. Obama supports fracking because it yields vast amounts of natural gas, a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. He also has said that it should be done ”œwithout putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”
Pam Judy of Carmichaels, Pa.., says she fears that her family already is at risk from fumes from a large natural gas compressor station 780 feet from their home in the hills. When they built it, they were far from everything. Three years later, a natural gas compressor station was built on neighboring property.
”œWe have fumes that are in our yard almost constantly,” she said. ”œThere are times when it smells like diesel or a kerosene smell. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact smell. Then there are times we get a smell like chlorine. When we get that chlorine smell it literally will scorch your eyes and your throat.”
Air tests found 16 chemicals in her yard, including benzene, a chemical the EPA classifies as a carcinogen. She said test of her blood also showed exposure to benzene and other chemicals. Benzene can cause dizziness and headaches, symptoms she’s had. Her adult children have had runny noses, headaches and sore throats that go away when they aren’t at their parents’ home.