State, private data say gas industry creates fraction of state's air pollution
The deep-shale gas industry produced a small fraction of the state's air pollution in 2011, according to newly released state data and private research.
Shale gas drilling and processing released less than 10 percent of some of the most common air pollutants emitted by stationary polluters in 2011, according to an inventory the Department of Environmental Protection tallied. For some substances, industry emissions constituted less than a fraction of a percent. Stationary polluters include coal-fired power plants and steel mills, but not cars and trucks.
DEP mandated last year that gas producers and pipeline companies provide data about their pollution. It totaled the data and published a summary online ahead of a more complete release it plans this month.
Meanwhile, a Rand Corp. analysis released Thursday calculated that the air pollution produced by the industry would cause about $7 million of damage in and around Pennsylvania for things such as higher health care bills and environmental degradation. Rand's analysis was independent of the state's data.
That is small compared with the hundreds of millions in estimated damage the rest of the state's polluters caused but adds to the risk of respiratory problems and premature death near industry sites, Rand said.
The downside of the gas boom includes more vehicle traffic, exhaust-spewing compressor engines and raw fuel sometimes vented or burned off.
DEP started to collect raw data a year ago, It plans to expand the inventory to traditional drillers in 2012, according to a slideshow the department prepared for its Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.
Industry officials this week lauded the data in the slideshow, noting its place in a larger trend of cleaner air. Recent federal and state data showed big gains in air quality, with Pennsylvania cutting its point-source pollution by half between 2008 and 2011, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Rand didn't try to assess the gains achieved by using gas in place of dirtier fuel such as coal.
“If you look at it on a statewide basis, you have to look at it holistically and look at what we're using that gas for,” said Andrew Paterson, a technical expert with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group. “I have trouble picturing the scenario where you don't get the benefits and get all the downside.”
The data show why society should push the gas industry to keep lowering its impact, said Dr. Bernard D. Goldstein, professor emeritus and former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media..
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- UPMC researcher who died of cyanide poisoning committed suicide
- Penguins finally break through, defeat Devils at Prudential Center
- Sting highlights demand for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon
- HOF finalist Bettis ‘behind everything’ in 2005 Super Bowl run
- Rooney says Pittsburgh is ‘good place’ for next northern Super Bowl
- Penguins notebook: Bennett a healthy scratch
- Pirates sign 2 to minor league deals
- Pa. Turnpike claims software fraud, wants $45M
- Dungy, Greene represent more Steelers ties in hall of fame voting
- Homework: Pittsburgh Home Show to feature celebs, wine and pets
- Wilkinsburg auto dealer scammed at least 30 people, police say