The Obama administration on Wednesday set the first-ever national standards to control air pollution from gas wells that are drilled using a method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but not without making concessions to the oil and gas industry.
Industry groups had pushed hard for the delay, saying the equipment to reduce pollution at the wellhead during completion was not readily available. About 25,000 wells a year are being fracked, a process where water, chemicals and sand are injected at high pressure underground to release trapped natural gas.
In New York, high-volume hydrofracking has yet to be permitted. The state Department of Environmental Conservation launched a review of the technique in 2008, and permits can’t be issued until it’s finalized. The agency says it will finish the review later this year, but a 2011 draft suggest allowing hydrofracking with restrictions on certain watersheds and aquifers.
“We don’t need (the EPA) to come and tell our members we will save you money,” said Howard Feldman, the institute’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs. “Their business is natural gas. They get it that they are trying to capture as much gas as they can.”
The reaction from environmental groups was mixed on Wednesday, in large part to the two-year delay on requiring companies to perform so-called green completions.
At the same time, a state study in Pennsylvania of air quality near Marcellus Shale drilling sites in four counties found no emissions at levels that would threaten the health of nearby residents or workers.
By Dina Cappiello@Associated Press Published@Democrat and Chronicle