EPA releases fracking emissions rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized rules to reduce air pollution associated with oil and natural gas production.

The standards, unveiled Wednesday, include the first federal air rules for hydraulically fractured gas wells, according to EPA. Required by the Clean Air Act, the standards will reduce 95 percent of harmful emissions from wells that contribute to smog and lead to health problems.

“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,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “They’re an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe.”

EPA will require all new fractured wells to use green completions by 2015, or technologies that already are widely used at wells to reduce emissions.

Colorado oil and gas producers already use the green completion technology based on state regulations passed in 2008, Encana spokesman Doug Hock said. The technology eliminates almost all emissions during the well completion phase.

Companies also use technology required by the state that captures 95 percent of emissions during the production phase, Hock said. Any methane that escapes means lost revenue, so it’s in the best interest of companies like Encana to capture it.

Encana drills gas wells around Erie, which was found by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist to have contained higher levels of some kinds of emissions than levels in Houston and Pasadena, Calif.

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