Groups plan to urge EPA to toughen air-quality rules for oil, gas industry
Citizen and environmental groups say they plan to call for tougher air-pollution regulation of the oil and gas industry when the Environmental Protection Agency holds two public meetings on the issue this week.
The agency is holding the meetings in Denver and Arlington, Texas, as it considers an update of its existing air-quality regulations pertaining to the industry.
It is acting under an agreement settling a lawsuit brought by WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. They contend the EPA failed to meet its requirement to review its existing rules within eight years.
The EPA says the scope of those rules currently is fairly narrow, focusing only on some aspects of the industry. In its review it is considering more comprehensive controls on emissions where warranted.
In a teleconference last week, representatives of several Colorado and Texas environmental and citizen groups said too many pollution emissions within the industry go unregulated now, and there needs to be a look at cumulative regional impacts as well as individual pollution sources.
Sharon Wilson of the Texas Oil and Gas Project said another problem with current regulations is even if any one toxin emitted at a site may not exceed allowable standards, she has heard of sites emitting as many as 32 toxins, including benzene, a carcinogen.
“When you mix it with all these other toxins, what is happening in your body, and what are the cumulative effects of that?” she asked.
In an e-mail, Doug Flanders, director of policy for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said his group is trying to understand why the EPA sees a need for more regulation in some areas. For example, more-recently-built, gas-processing plants already must have comprehensive leak detection and repair programs, he said.
In Colorado, the industry has taken proactive steps to reduce its emissions of ozone contributors and developed alternative solutions to cut emissions of pollutants more quickly than under an original state proposal, Flanders said.
He added, “We expect the EPA will see that through the increase in the use of clean-burning natural gas we can make a dramatic decrease in air emissions.”
But Mike Eisenfeld of the San Juan Citizens Alliance said that as the nation looks to natural gas as a cleaner-burning fossil fuel, it’s also important that the true impacts associated with gas development are considered.