PADEP Extends Long-Term Air Quality Study in Marcellus Region
The State Journal
2 August 2013
By Pam Kasey
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced
Aug. 1 that it has extended its one-year, long-term air monitoring
study in the Marcellus region in southwestern Pennsylvania through
the end of this year.
"The use of natural gas holds great promise in continuing recent
trends of cleaner air in this state, and the data from this study
will allow us to make sound decisions for the long-term," DEP
Acting Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said.
"Our study, which is stationed in one of the most active drilling
regions in the state, will help us to identify potential air
quality–related risks associated with drilling, processing and
transporting natural gas," Abruzzo said.
In July 2012, DEP announced it would conduct a long-term study in
southwestern Pennsylvania to measure ambient air concentrations of
The study, designed to identify potential health risks associated
with the extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas,
is under way in Chartiers Township, in Washington County. Both
methane, or "dry" gas, and natural gas liquids are processed and
moved to sale there via compressor stations and pipeline networks.
Samples collected during the study will be subjected to rigorous
quality assurance and data validation criteria.
A final report is expected in the spring of 2014.
A 60-page technical support document released by the agency on
Aug. 1 makes unpublished information about the study's scope and
process available to the public.
In 2010 and 2011, PADEP conducted three short-term ambient air
quality sampling studies in the southwest, north-central and
northeast parts of the state. The agency reported from those
studies that it detected no level of any pollutant that would
violate federal ambient air quality standards. It also reported
that it did not identify concentrations of any compound associated
with Marcellus Shale drilling activities that would be likely to
trigger air-related health issues.
The main monitoring site for the long-term study includes sampling
for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide,
nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide and methane. The air will also
be tested for more than 60 volatile organic compounds, including
hazardous air pollutants, and meteorological data will be
DEP is monitoring for volatile organic compounds and collecting
meteorological data at three additional sites in Chartiers and
Hickory townships in Washington County as well. Of the two
additional Chartiers Township sites, one is upwind of MarkWest
Liberty Midstream & Resources Houston, Pa. gas processing
plant and the other is downwind of the Brigich compressor station.
The site in Hickory Township will be located downwind of the
Stewart compressor stations.
The agency's media release said the long-term study is the latest
effort to ensure that natural gas resources are developed
responsibly. Earlier this year, PADEP announced a revised general
permit for compressor stations and gas processing facilities that
included significantly lower allowable emissions limits.
A PADEP emissions inventory submitted to U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency in December 2012 showed significant reductions
in sulfur dioxide emissions in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2011.
The agency calculated that those reductions, which it attributed
primarily to the deactivation of coal-fired power stations,
installation of emissions controls at remaining stations and the
conversion to natural gas from coal, represent an annual public
health benefit of $14 billion to $37 billion, based on EPA
The agency said the inventory, which for the first time included
unconventional gas operations, also showed significant reductions
in nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and
particulate matter during that same time period.
For more information, visit http://www.dep.state.pa.us,
and click "Air."