EPA seeks limits on fracking emissions

July 29, 2011 at 9:21 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- Natural gas is a key component of a clean energy future, though extracting those resources must be done in an environmentally friendly way, the EPA said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it was responding to a court order by proposing new standards that would seek to limit volatile organic compound emissions associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas deposits.

"Reducing these emissions will help cut toxic pollution that can increase cancer risks and smog that can cause asthma attacks and premature death," Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said in a statement.

The EPA proposal targets several processes in the oil and gas industry, though the agency specifically called for a 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted from new and modified fracking wells.

An April report from the U.S. House of Representatives said oil and gas companies involved in shale gas production used fluids containing dozens of chemicals that are carcinogenic, considered harmful in drinking water or are listed as hazardous under the Clean Air Act.

The House report comes on the heels of a Cornell University study published online in the journal Climatic Change that concludes methane leaked during shale gas production does more harm to the environment than burning coal.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency said shale gas production will make up about half of the total natural gas production in the United States in the next 25 years.

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