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Marcellus Air Pollution in Wetzel County
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by Bill Hughes | 2011

It’s Not Just The Water

Marcellus gas drilling has created many problems — illegally filled streams, crumbling roads, and more.

Now we find that the development of Marcellus gas fields is polluting the air, as well as the water and land. And like other dimensions of the Marcellus gas rush, the air pollution is going completely unregulated and has the potential to become a major, irreversible hazard to our health.

The problem is that the air pollution is sometimes hard to see, difficult to measure, drifts with the wind and comes in parts — some here, some there — rather than from one easy to target source. There are pollutants being emitted from wells, during fracking and during completions when a lot of raw gas is released to the atmosphere before and after flaring. Compressor stations and dehydration units also release harmful emissions.
Rine Pollution 1 Photo by Ed Wade, Jr.
 Rine Pollution 2Photo by Ed Wade, Jr.

Each one by itself is insufficient to trigger enforcement and is usually considered a minor source. However, federal law — the Clean Air Act — requires that interconnected and interdependent sources should be considered together, or aggregated, to determine whether the Act is being violated.

In Wetzel County, concerned citizens are insisting on that aggregation. They want to have the emissions at all gas wells and all compressor stations be combined together as one source. They have challenged recent permits for gas compressor stations. The WV Department of Environmental Protection Division of Air Quality has refused to address the issue, saying they do not ever regulate air pollution from any gas or oil field development. So local citizens have filed an appeal, attempting to force the WVDEP to face up to its responsibility. In the aggregate, the Wetzel air pollution is more than enough to cross the Clean Air Act threshold and require pollution control measures.

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