Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Researcher says required buffer between gas drilling sites and homes needs to be increased

West Virginia needs to re-think its Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act of 2011, which prohibits drilling sites withing 625 feet of an occupied dwelling. Other states have similar laws, with varying distances. The law only requires measurements be made from "the center point of drilling permits, wrongly assuming that emissions all come from sources at that center point," Michael McCawley, interim chairman of West Virginia University's Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, told state lawmakers Monday, Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette.

"As an example, McCawley noted that at one location where he found the highest pollutant levels, both his monitors and a drilling company, used to burn off excess flammable gases, were located 625 feet from the center of the well pad," Ward writes. McCawley told lawmakers, "You could have a flare literally right outside somebody's bedroom window under the setback. I don't know that any company would do that on purpose. But it would be legal."

McCawley "noted that the setback provision treats all locations equally, not taking into account the potential for some gas drilling sites in narrow hollows to be subject to weather inversions that trap pollutants near the ground," Ward writes. "McCawley recommended instead that more air-quality monitoring be done at drilling sites and that the data be used, along with public health guidelines, to require the best pollution control systems be used by industry." (Read more)

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