**Failing to regulate environmental toxins *
*is not fiscally responsible*
*an op-ed response to proposed federal laws and regulations*
*by Barbara Jarmoska*
When it comes to regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing under the
Safe Water Drinking Act, federal regulators are handcuffed by exemptions
granted to the gas industry in 2005. However, the EPA stepped up to the
plate on air quality last week and proposed a new set of regulations that
would offer additional protections, particularly to those of us living in
heavy drilling areas atop the Marcellus and other shale plays.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition wasn't happy about the proposed regulations,
and coalition president Kathryn Klaber claimed, “*Th**is sweeping set of
potentially unworkable regulations represents an overreach..."*. The gas
industry summarized the proposals with bullet points that all began with
the verb “Forces”. The industry's choice of verbs was notable, evidence
that gas industry “best management practices” do not include voluntary
reductions in air emissions. Thus, my impression prior to reading the EPA
proposal was, “Looks as though the EPA is trying to tighten things up.”
They are – and kudos to federal regulators for doing their job and stepping
into the fray on this enormously challenging health issue. Although there
are critical gaps in the EPA proposal, it's certainly a move in the right
The proposed regulations, if passed (and that's a big “if”) are especially
needed in PA where emissions from gas drilling are currently viewed by DEP
on a single site and not a collective impact basis. This fact will become
increasingly troubling as the number of gas wells continues to grow. In
addition, Governor Corbett's recently released Marcellus Shale Advisory
Commission proposals all but overlooked the entire problem of air quality in
it's final recommendations. The PA constitution guarantees citizens the
right to clean air and water, but that right is being grossly ignored these
days. Local governments have no power to regulate air quality. RDA provided
written testimony during DEP's public comment period on air quality, but we
have yet to see if state regulations will be tightened. If PA citizens
aren't going to get needed help from our state regulators – we certainly
need all the help we can get from the feds.
Looking to states where significant drilling has already taken place does
not bode well for PA's air quality. In Texas, where the terrain is flat and
a constant wind blows at 9 mph or more, air quality in the Dallas-Ft Worth
metroplex now violates existing EPA standards. Cases of asthma in children
living there has risen from 7 to 25% over the past several years of heavy
drilling. In PA, where the mountains and valleys form significant air
inversion pockets, we will all be breathing the VOCs, methane and other gas
industry emissions much longer, increasing total exposure, increasing risk.
Among other proposed regulations, the EPA is asking for reductions of 25 -
30% of cancer-causing, birth-defect-promoting, climate-changing, and
brain-damaging (neurotoxic) pollutants:
- VOCs - 540,000 tons released annually: EPA proposes a reduction of 25
- Methane – 3.4 million tons released annually, which is equal to 65
million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), EPA proposes a
reduction of about 26 percent.
- Air Toxics –38,000 tons released annually, EPA proposes a reduction of
nearly 30 percent.
The sheer volume of these pollutants, unleashed into the environment on an
annual basis, is disconcerting to say the least. These reductions are not
harsh demands, are already being opposed by the oil and gas industry, as
evidenced by their quick, negative response.
This brings us to the question of whether or not these proposed regulations
will make it through the political gauntlet in Washington and actually
become law. One look at what is happening in the federal government at this
moment is deeply troublesome, and does not bode well for EPA's intentions.
No discussion of the validity and future of the new proposed EPA regulations
would be complete without looking at a bill currently in the federal house,
H.R. 2584. As part of the Interior and Environment spending bill, some
lawmakers are pushing a series of amendments that represent what may truly
be the most egregious attack ever on our air, land, water and wildlife. These
environmental assaults come as a part of a spending bill containing more
than three dozen anti-environment policy measures that have absolutely no
place in a budget measure. They won’t save the taxpayers a penny and are
nothing more than giveaways to various special interest polluters, including
the oil and gas industry.
If enacted, lawmakers would hope for (and no doubt get) headlines lauding
their efforts to cut government spending. In truth, the threat to Americans’
lives and well-being would be *increased* as limits on harmful air
pollution, pollution in sources of drinking water, extinction of animal and
plant species (by denying Endangered Species Act protection) and a host of
other dirty and dangerous provisions are included in this legislation.
The biggest polluters are cashing in on the current economic crisis as a way
to decrease regulations affecting the health and well-being of all
Americans. The debt ceiling debate is a part of this challenge. So is HB
2584, perhaps the worst such bill to date.
In managing my personal and business finances, I am nothing if not a fiscal
conservative. However, I refuse to be fooled by the headlines and media
pundits asking for my support of “fiscal responsibility” that comes at the
hands of sacrifices to human and environmental health. In the end, such a
plan is sheer folly and apt to end up costing taxpayers billions in years to
come. We are being completely duped by deceptive headlines and half-truths.
HB 2584 is no exception.
I applaud the EPA and the new proposed regulations. It is crucial to
remember that they are just that – proposed. The opposition will no doubt
rally its battle cry, including claims that the new regs are unfair,
unpatriotic and come at a cost the American people can ill afford. Watch
for that cleverly crafted response.
What strange irony that the EPA has come to the table with new proposed
regulations that would offer increased protection from polluters at the very
time our legislators are busy dissecting and deleting protections already in
place with HB 2584.
Corporations are using the current fiscal crisis and budget cut demands to
their distinct advantage. They may well take that tactic with these new EPA
proposed regulations. We desperately need to cut wasteful spending. Making
it easier for corporate polluters to dump the toxic byproducts of their
operations into our air, water and soil is not the answer.
*Please contact your federal Representative today. Ask for a “YES” vote on
the new EPA air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry and a “NO”
vote on HB 2584. *
Residents of PA's 10th Congressional District are represented by Tom Marino.
You can reach Rep. Marino's office by phoning (202) 225-3731. For other
legislators and/or additional contact information, enter your zip code in
the upper right hand corner at: http://house.gov/