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Air quality testing shows extreme greenhouse gas and chemical emissions; debunks clean energy myth

DISH, TX, 5/4 — Final results released today indicate that the gas drilling industry is polluting the air of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region with toxic emissions in excess of state limits. A team of environmental scientists who conducted independent air quality tests in March 2010 released the results. Preliminary results released immediately after the March tests, now corroborated, showed alarming levels of toxic chemical and greenhouse gas emissions that threaten human health and the environment.

“These definitive results not only show extreme methane emissions from gas well sites but also startling levels of chemicals that pose public health risks,” said Wilma Subra, EARTHWORKS board member, environmental scientist and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient.

The March tests employed a new technology that enables drive-through emissions testing on shale gas drilling and pumping facilities — without leaving the vehicle or slowing down from normal driving speeds. They were backed up with traditional air canister sampling — the results of which were released today.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is between twenty and thirty times more effective at trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere than carbon dioxide. In addition to methane, fifteen volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in the air in association with the methane emissions downwind from the DISH Compressor Station Complex during the undercover testing in March. VOCs are organic chemical compounds which have significant vapor pressures and which can affect the environment and human health. The levels of Carbon Disulfide, Dimethyl Disulfide, Methylethyl Disulfide, Benzene, m&p-Xylene exceeded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) standards.

The team also measured emissions at two locations in Flower Mound, Texas. Five VOCs were detected at Scenic Road and seven at the Williams Tank Farm. The Scenic Road Carbon Disulfide emissions were in excess of TCEQ levels and the Williams location showed Benzene and Toluene, known carcinogens, along with other VOCs.

DISH residents suffer a host of air-quality-related illnesses, including respiratory ailments and headaches, brain disorders, pre-cancerous lesions and impairment of motor skills. A community health survey conducted by EARTHWORKS and the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project shows an alarming 61% of those health effects were directly attributed to natural gas industry emissions. Recent testing by the state found elevated levels of toxins in the blood, urine and water of DISH residents.

A survey of Flower Mound residents has yet to be performed.

“The technology exists today that would reduce these emissions by 90%, and industry can afford to use it,” stated Sharon Wilson of the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “EARTHWORKS and Texas OGAP call on TCEQ to protect public health and require that industry employ the highest levels of control technology as set forth in Drill-Right Texas: Best Oil and Gas Development Practices for Texas.”

“As our country struggles to address climate change, natural gas is being promoted as a clean energy solution,” said Wilson. “Natural gas is anything but clean and industry must be required to use technology that is already available to mitigate its impacts.”

Texas OGAP will work with communities statewide to prevent and minimize the impacts caused by energy development. EARTHWORKS has 29,000 members nationwide, and offices in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, D.C.

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