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Southern California Air Agency Poised to Take Big Step Forward in Tackling Pollution From Fracking

Damon Nagami

Posted April 1, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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Baldwin Hills panoramic.jpg

On Friday, the agency responsible for cleaning up air pollution in the Los Angeles region, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, will vote on whether to adopt a new rule targeting the air pollution from oil and gas operations in the region, including from fracking. We strongly support the proposed rule and urge the Governing Board to approve it.

As I've blogged about previously, one of the most pressing concerns when it comes to fracking in California is the lack of information about the actual and potential health and environmental impacts from the practice. No one knows when or where or how often fracking is taking place, because the state's oil and gas agency has never required companies to provide that information. And yet there is growing concern about the adverse environmental impacts from oil and gas wells, and fracking, including the harmful air pollution these operations release into the air.

The District has been working to develop a new rule, Proposed Rule 1148.2, to gather information about what kinds of oil and gas operations are taking place within the South Coast air basin and what sorts of pollution problems they may be causing. The rule would require the operators of oil and gas wells to tell the District where and when they are drilling and fracking, what kinds of ancillary activities are involved, and what materials, fluids, and chemicals they are using in their processes. The District will then publish some of this information on its website for the public to see. Importantly, the District has committed to visit the drilling and fracking sites when it is notified that operations are taking place, and use air pollution monitors to test for any pollution those operations may be emitting. The District will then analyze the data and, based on that analysis, consider whether additional regulations are needed to require companies to reduce their air pollution.

We commend the District for taking this important step forward. We also appreciate the District's efforts at involving the public during the rulemaking process, from convening a Working Group made up of representatives from the oil industry, agencies, and environmental groups including NRDC, to holding public meetings in the affected communities of Wilmington and Baldwin Hills. We urge the District to approve the proposed rule without delay, conduct robust monitoring to collect the data, and, if the data indicate that problems exist, move as quickly as possible to adopt a rule to require the reduction of harmful emissions. 

We will be there on Friday to ask the Governing Board to adopt this important rule. Our air pollution problems in this region are so severe that we need to reduce pollution coming from all sources, including not only cars and trucks and power plants, but also oil and gas wells. Air pollution, regardless of its source, causes health problems for the nearby communities and the region as a whole, and no stone can go unturned in the fight to protect our health.

Photo: Oil drilling in the Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles County, California (credit NRDC)

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