Regional Air Quality Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Natural Gas Activity: Evidence from Ambient VOC Observations
Atmospheric Environment v110 (2015, 144e150) / by Timothy Vinciguerra, et al.
[Baltimore Sun] Even though Maryland has yet to permit any hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, emissions linked to the controversial drilling technique have been detected in the air in Baltimore and Washington, according to a new study.
In a paper published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, University of Maryland scientists reported finding that levels of ethane, a component of natural gas, rose 30 percent from 2010 through 2013 in air samples taken at a monitoring station in Essex.
A similar spike in ethane levels was detected at a monitor in Washington near Howard University – but not in Atlanta, where there is no fracking occurring in neighboring states.
The UM researchers say they couldn’t find anything in Maryland that could account for such increases. Indeed, levels of other air pollutants responsible for summertime smog have declined significantly since the 1990s.
But in reviewing air circulation patterns in the Mid-Atlantic region, researchers found that the bulk of prevailing winds reaching Baltimore and Washington passed over areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio where there is widespread drilling for gas.
“What we’re trying to do is wave a little flag,” said Sheryl H. Ehrman, a co-author of the paper and chair of UM’s chemical and biomolecular engineering department. “It looks like we’ve got a problem. I think we’ve got a regional issue.”
The study, which was underwritten in part by the Maryland Department of the Environment, comes as the Hogan administration mulls adopting regulations to allow hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” in western Maryland…