Discussion flows over the benefits of fracking over the environmental issues it may or may not cause, but there continues to a limit on quality data and unreliable estimates on air pollution from oil and natural gas production and that is a problem for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it deals with the drilling boom.
Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. said the EPA failed to directly measure emissions from some pieces of equipment and processes, and some estimates it does have are of “questionable quality.”
“With limited data, human health risks are uncertain, states may design incorrect or ineffective emission control strategies, and EPA’s decisions about regulating industry may be misinformed,” Elkins said.
The EPA, under President Barack Obama, has stepped up regulation of natural gas drilling, which has been booming thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. About 25,000 wells a year are undergoing fracking, which is a process in which water, chemicals and sand end up injected at high pressure underground to release trapped natural gas.
Obama also wants to expand natural gas production, as long as it doesn’t damage the environment.
The oil and gas industry has said the EPA overestimated emissions of methane and argued they already were working to reduce pollution, without the agency’s intervention.
The EPA last year issued the first-ever standards to control smog- and soot-forming gases from gas wells site, and updated existing rules to reduce cancer-causing pollution, such as benzene, from other equipment.
The agency, in response to the report, agreed to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve its pollution figures.