Too Much Methane in the Air


By: Joe Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director

Methane is a potent global warming pollutant, and more methane is leaking into the air because of natural gas drilling than previously known. That’s what the latest study by researchers at Drexel University has found. The researchers used special mobile air quality monitoring vehicles to measure air pollution at 13 sites across the Marcellus Shale. The team reported increases in emissions that affect air quality around drilling sites and, in particular, methane emissions that were higher than those reported in previous studies. 

This study is an important development in terms of understanding drilling’s impact on air quality in Pennsylvania. Much of the research to date has focused on water quality. But increases in air pollutants pose an immediate and local health hazard. Dr. Peter DeCarlo, one of the researchers from Drexel, noted, “In terms of persistent impacts to local air quality, compressor stations and other post-extraction processing are major sources of pollutants that have the potential to affect downwind air quality.”

Right now there are few regulations in place to limit emissions from compressor stations. We need the Department of Environmental Protection to require operators to minimize air pollution from the entire natural gas supply chain. A strong rule to limit methane emissions would also effectively reduce the other air pollutants that Dr. DeCarlo and his team found near drilling sites.


Photo courtesy of Drexel University

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