EPA Imposes Fracking Rules for the First Time
|Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the first ever federal air standards for hydraulic fracturing--also known as fracking. A key component of the rule forces operators of new wells to use technology by 2015 to capture harmful substances that could possibly escape during the fracking process.
Fracking is a procedure in which drillers inject water, chemicals, and sand into underground geological formations to create fractures that enable natural gas to flow up to the surface level and be collected. The Wall Street Journal reported that shale gas, which is recovered by fracking, was 1% of the US gas supply in 2000 and 25% in 2011.
As the use of fracking has increased, environmental concerns about the substances emitted during the procedure, such as methane and benzene, have contributed to an ongoing debate about whether or not the United States should continue to allow fracking. According to the EPA, methane "is the primary constituent of natural gas" and "is a potent greenhouse gas--more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide when emitted directly to the atmosphere."
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a press release that the new rules will help reduce pollutants: "By ensuring the capture of gases that were previously released to pollute our air and threaten our climate, these updated standards will not only protect our health, but also lead to more product for fuel suppliers to bring to market." The new rules are estimated to yield a nearly 95% reduction in harmful emissions from the more than 11,000 new fracking wells each year.
The EPA also estimates that the required technology will result in costs savings of $11-19 million by 2015 because the natural gas industry will be able to sell or use the gas that it captures.
The new EPA regulations were issued in response to a US District Court decision that required the agency to review air toxins and the natural gas industry and take action by April 17, 2012.