While possible adverse impacts to water quality are often associated with Natural Gas extraction, impacts to air quality are many times overlooked. Few people dispute that air pollution occurs from the use of diesel-powered drilling rigs, pick-up trucks, tractor-trailers, and earth moving equipment, in addition to the particulate matter dispersed from dust, natural gas flaring, and gas dehydration and separation equipment.
What is disputed is the amount of air polution and what effects this pollution may have.
In Sublette County, Wyoming, one of the most sparsely populated counties in the continental United States and home to massive natural gas fields, the State of Wyoming recently recommended “non-attainment” status be given by the EPA for ozone levels that breach the Clean Air Act for the past several years. However, industry groups and other skeptics portend that the heightened ozone levels are the result of a combination of industry pollutants and rare weather patterns that concentrate the ozone to unnatural levels, a feat they say is nearly un-reproducable in other areas or in a consistent manner.
Meanwhile, in the Barnett Shale region of Texas, a recent report from Southern Methodist University claims that trucks, compressors, and tank batteries produce more ozone-causing volatile organic compounds each day than do all the non-gas field cars and trucks operated in the entire Dallas -Ft. Worth region. However, industry trade groups counter that if the study were accurate, then ozone would have skyrocketed in recent years as drilling activity has exploded, but in fact ozone levels in Dallas Ft. Worth have decreased over the past several years.
And while the previous two examples involve nearly Los Angeles-sized Ozone levels, the LA Times recently ran a story about a 18-year study that shows long-term exposure to even low levels of Ozone is lethal over time.