Companies drilling for oil and natural gas in shale formations in Ohio might soon face air pollution limits on new wells.
The practice of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in pursuit of gas can require multiple wells on a single site, creating a concentration of equipment that can leak hazardous airborne compounds, The Columbus Dispatch reported. That’s causing concern about the pollutants the drilling operations might release, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has proposed requiring oil and gas drillers to get permits that would set pollution limits.
“This is no longer the individual little well you see out in farm fields,” Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles said. “This is a sizable operation with pieces of equipment that need to be covered by an air permit.”
Ohio has more than 64,000 active oil and gas wells, but they had not been considered significant threats to air quality.
Environmental groups appear to have more qualms with the idea than drillers do.
“I don’t see anything that’s particularly adverse to the industry’s interests,” said Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
A coalition that includes the Ohio Environmental Council and other environmental groups argue there are loopholes in the permit proposal that leave room for more pollution because the permits wouldn’t apply to certain activities and because companies wouldn’t be required to install the best available pollution filters.
The permits wouldn’t limit air pollution from drilling or fracking, a technique in which water, chemicals and sand are pumped in to crack the ground and release gas or oil, because those are “temporary activities,” Settles said.
It’s possible that benzene and other hazardous compounds could evaporate from the waste water fracking produces, said Teresa Mills, Ohio organizer for the advocacy group Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
Brazil, South Africa, India and China said Saturday that November’s UN climate talks should aim to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding global deal to cut greenhouse gases.
The four key emerging powers — seen as critical to the success of any future effort to combat climate change — said keeping Kyoto alive should be the “central priority” at the key UN summit in South Africa.
The bloc released the statement after two days of talks in southeast Brazil to prepare for the next UN climate conference scheduled to take place in Durban from November 28 to December 9.
The ministers “reaffirmed that the Kyoto Protocol is a cornerstone of the climate change regime,” it said.
Xie Zhenhua, a top Chinese climate change official, said he hoped the statement would “send a sign to the international community that we are pursuing efforts to make the Durban conference a success.”
Global concern about climate change has risen only very slightly over the past two years, as consumers have focused on more immediate economic worries, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday.
Nielsen’s latest global online environment and sustainability survey showed that 69 percent of 25,000 Internet users in 51 countries were concerned about climate change in 2011, slightly up from 66 percent in a similar poll in 2009, but down from 72 percent in 2007.
“Focus on immediate worries such as job security, local school quality and economic wellbeing have all diminished media attention for climate stories in the past two years,” said Maxwell Boykoff, who was an adviser to the survey and is senior visiting research associate at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.
Protesters remain undaunted by a U.S. State Department decision Friday giving preliminary approval to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline meant to pump tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Demonstrations have been taking place all week in front of the White House and included a “No Tar Sands Caravan” bus tour that stopped in Boulder and Denver earlier in the week. More than 400 people, including prominent climate change writer Bill McKibben, have been arrested in Washington, D.C.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the New York Times President Obama needs to veto the project despite the State Department’s initial green light.
“It will be increasingly difficult to mobilize the environmental base and to mobilize in particular young people to volunteer, to knock on thousands of doors, to put in 16-hour days, to donate money if they don’t think the president is showing the courage to stand up to big polluters,” he said, referring to the Obama’s ability to win re-election in 2012.