NPR Story
1:01 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Regulate Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Wells

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 3:41 pm

An oil well near a neighborhood in Yukon, Okla.

bjmccray / flickr

An oil well near a neighborhood in Yukon, Okla.

An alliance of national and state environmental groups on Tuesday asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set air pollution limits on oil and gas wells and production equipment.

The petition — prepared by Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council and signed by more than 60 other groups — asks the EPA to issue rules limiting air pollution from oil and gas wells in cities, suburbs and other populated areas.

Nine states are mentioned specifically in the petition, including Oklahoma, where the groups identified 23,646 oil and gas wells in populated areas.

Here’s their breakdown:

Oklahoma Metropolitan Areas With Oil and Gas Wells

METRO POPULATION # OIL & GAS WELLS % OF METRO WITH WELLS
Oklahoma City 1,252,987 10,002 45%
Tulsa 937,478 13,287 51%
Lawton 124,098 357 8%

Oklahoma has Oil and gas wells and production equipment release benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene, toluene and other hazardous air pollutants, the petitioners write:

Toxic pollution from oil and gas production is emitted not only at the wells during drilling, completion and flaring, but also from compressors, condensate tanks, gas sweetening equipment, storage tanks, produced waste water impoundments, and leaks throughout the process. In addition, hydraulic fracturing uses a number of toxic chemicals that can be released into the air and water, yet many such chemicals and the amounts in which they are used and may be released are undisclosed due to industry’s concerns about trade secrets.

The environmental groups' petition points to oil and gas development in populated areas, such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton.

The environmental groups' petition points to risks from oil and gas development in populated areas, such as Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton metropolitan areas.

In a statement, the petitioners said there are more than 1 million oil and gas wells in the U.S., and estimate that 45,000 new wells could be drilled annually through 2035.

These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.

“Every Oklahoman has the right to clean air to breathe,” David Ocamb, director of of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club said in the statement. “Currently Oklahoma air continues to deteriorate and instances of illnesses directly connected to air quality such as asthma continue to increase.”

Here’s a copy of the petition in full:

The petition is just the start, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

The petition is the first step in what likely will be a lengthy process to come up with rules on emissions from oil and gas wells. It asks the EPA to gather public comments and issue a report within 180 days.

The petition is likely to draw opposition from the oil and gas industry. Last year, Devon Energy Corp. pulled out of the EPA’s voluntary Natural Gas Star emissions program after it said the agency was misusing data to make the regulatory case for reductions in greenhouse gases. Devon said the EPA didn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Copyright 2014 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/.