Read more: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/watchdog/
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration on Wednesday finalized new standards aimed at sharply reducing dangerous air emissions from the nation's rapidly expanding natural gas drilling and production industry.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said the standards are "flexible, affordable and achievable," but still delayed their complete implementation in the face of industry lobbying and fierce political criticism that the agency is costing jobs and slowing energy production.
"The president has been clear that he wants to continue to expand production of important domestic resources like natural gas, and today's standard supports that goal while making sure these fuels are produced without threatening the health of the American people," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
The EPA action finalized new source performance standards and hazardous air pollution standards to require gas producers to better control volatile organic compounds and other toxic emissions at key points in the drilling and distribution process. New pollution controls will also begin to capture fugitive emissions of natural gas, or methane, which itself is a powerful greenhouse gas.
"These rules are a major American public health milestone," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians, a citizen group that sued to force EPA's action. "Although we are disappointed that EPA may condone wasteful drilling, on the whole, this is a win-win plan that protects people and promotes responsible energy development."
Howard Feldman, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said EPA made some improvements in the rule, notably allowing companies until 2015 to fully comply, but said the industry group needs more time to examine the final agency action.
"This is a large and complicated rulemaking for an industry so critical to the economy, and we need to thoroughly review the final rule to fully understand its impacts," Feldman said in a prepared statement.
The EPA action comes amid a growing national debate over energy policy, and as new technologies have fueled tremendous growth in natural gas drilling, especially in shale-gas fields like the Marcellus Shale areas in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.