Estimation of Regional Air-quality Damages from Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Extraction in Pennsylvania

Environmental Research Letters (2013, v8 p014017; doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014017)  / by Aviva Litovitz, Aimee Curtright, Shmuel Abramzon, Nicholas Burger and Constantine Samaras

[Abstract] This letter provides a first-order estimate of conventional air pollutant emissions, and the monetary value of the associated environmental and health damages, from the extraction of unconventional shale gas in Pennsylvania. Region-wide estimated damages ranged from $7.2 to $32 million dollars for 2011. The emissions from Pennsylvania shale gas extraction represented only a few per cent of total statewide emissions, and the resulting statewide damages were less than those estimated for each of the state’s largest coal-based power plants. On the other hand, in counties where activities are concentrated, NOx emissions from all shale gas activities were 20–40 times higher than allowable for a single minor source, despite the fact that individual new gas industry facilities generally fall below the major source threshold for NOx. Most emissions are related to ongoing activities, i.e., gas production and compression, which can be expected to persist beyond initial development and which are largely unrelated to the unconventional nature of the resource. Regulatory agencies and the shale gas industry, in developing regulations and best practices, should consider air emissions from these long-term activities, especially if development occurs in more populated areas of the state where per-ton emissions damages are significantly higher. [H/T: Energy Wire, sub. req’d]


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