Rand Report: Unregulated Air Emissions of Shale Fuel Extraction Worse than Regulated “Major Sources”

NOTE: The Rand report described and linked to here found as much as $32 million costs in associated health and environmental damages from shale fuel extraction in PA in 2011 without even considering emissions from venting and flaring, which would greatly increase actual costs if they had been considered. See footnote 7 below.

The following is from a Clean Air Council summary found at Licking County Fracking.org.

The Rand Report (“Report”) is intended to provide an “estimate of conventional air pollutant emissions, and the monetary value of the associated environmental and health damages, from the extraction of unconventional shale gas in Pennsylvania.”

[1] The Report estimated that the damages amounted to $7.2 to $32 million dollars for 2011.

In aggregate these damages are only a fraction of the cost from other sources,[2] but the take-away is that where these sources are concentrated, they amount to a great deal of damage, for example, nitrogen oxide emissions were found to be “20-40 times higher than allowable for a single minor source.”[3] In these concentrated areas the net equivalent (of air emissions from these sources) is that of adding a major source.[4]
The Report found that most of the emissions came from the ongoing activities (gas production and compression) of the facilities and, as such, the dangerous emissions remain throughout the life of the facility and are “unrelated to the unconventional nature of the resource.”[5] The Report found that these emissions affected peoples’ health (asthma, hospitalization, and mortality) primarily, but also found that agriculture and infrastructure were damaged.[6]
The Report assed the following types of pollutants: volatile organic compounds; nitrogen oxides; particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. Volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter combined across all activities accounted for 94% of total damages.
The Report focused on four types of extraction activities: diesel and road dust from trucks transporting water and equipment to, and away from the site; construction of, drilling, and fracking the wells (including diesel combustion); production of natural gas (including on-site diesel combustion and fugitive emissions); and compressor stations.[7]   MORE…


[1] Aviva Litovitz et al., Estimation of Regional Air-quality Damages from Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Extraction in Pennsylvania, Rand (Jan. 31, 2013) (available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/014017) (last visited Feb. 21, 2013) [hereinafter “Report”].
[2] For example, the states largest coal-fired power plant was estimated to produce $75 million in damages in 2008. Aimee E. Curtright, The Environmental Costs of Emissions from Shale Gas Extraction, The Rand Blog (Feb. 14, 2013) (available at http://www.rand.org/blog/2013/02/the-environmental-costs-of-emissions-from-shale-gas.html) (last visited Feb. 20, 2013). The four largest facilities in Pennsylvania produced nearly $1.5 billion in damages in 2008. Report supra note 1 at 6.
[3] Report supra note 1 at 1.
[4] Curtright supra note 2.
[5] Report supra note 1 at 1. “At the high end, more than 80% of damages occur in the years after the well is developed.” Id. at 7.
[6] Curtright supra note 2.
[7] The report omitted emissions from venting and flaring as the EPA will prohibit this by 2015. [NOTE: These are MAJOR emission not being considered. Italics by ACFAN editor.] Report supra note 1 at 3.