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.
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day
- Gorman: Look out for unsung hero
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Occupying playoff spot on Thanksgiving good harbinger for Penguins
- Penn State suffers home loss to Radford
- West Virginia football team finds late-season mean streak
- Penn State-West Virginia rivalry renews at Elite Eight
- Kiski Area boys a team in transition after graduation of top scorer
- Expanded roster helps boost Kiski Area girls