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Report on Mon Group’s October Meeting
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by Sally Wilts, Mon Group Chair | 2011

GASP! Its that air we breathe that may be bad!

The Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition and the WV Chapter of Sierra Club sponsored a public informational meeting about the air pollution associated with shale drilling and processing on October 13th. Joe Osborne, legal director for the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) in Pittsburgh, was our speaker.

The most significant air pollutants generated by Marcellus Shale operations are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and a variety of air toxics such as benzene, toluene, and hydrogen sulfide. The amount of pollution that gas extraction and processing creates when all of these emissions are added together can be so overwhelming that areas with previously pristine environments fail to meet air quality standards, endangering the health of inhabitants.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, located in the Barnett Shale gas play, annual NOx and VOC emissions from the oil and gas sector exceed emissions from all motor vehicles. A 2008 analysis by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concluded that smog-forming emissions from Colorado’s oil and gas operations exceed motor vehicle emissions for the entire state.

In addition to being unhealthy in their own right, NOx and VOCs react with other compounds in the atmosphere to produce ozone and particulate matter. Much of the Northeastern U.S. already fails to meet federal health-based standards for ozone and particulate matter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently proposed new rules to reduce air pollution from hydraulically fractured gas wells. EPA estimates that if these rules are adopted, air pollution from these wells will be reduced by more than 25 percent. Industry could save $30 million annually by using technology already available.

The Group Against Smog and Pollution, Inc. (GASP) is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit citizens group working for a healthy, sustainable environment. Founded in 1969, GASP serves as a watchdog, educator, litigator, and policy-maker on many environmental issues with a focus on air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. For more info, go to: www.gasppgh.org.

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