Some people (gas industry PR people, in particular) may say, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”as Chester A. Riley said on the old Life of Riley TV show.

This is, or ought to be, a revolting development because it adds significantly to the argument for putting on hold the NY State draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (discussed previously here) for gas production permitting.

The news here is that EPA and plaintiffs Wild Earth Guardians, et al. have come to a settlement agreement (pdf here) over a suit filed because EPA failed

…to determine whether to promulgate residual risk standards for the Oil and Natural Gas Production and Natural Gas Transmission and Storage major source categories

As summarized by Wild Earth Guardians in a press release, the settlement agreement

commits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review and, if appropriate, propose to update three sets of regulations by January 31, 2011 and to finalize updates by November 30, 2011.


“The oil and gas industry is held to outdated air quality standards that fail to address increased air pollution emissions from expedited drilling,” said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico Energy Coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “

Under the Clean Air Act, New Source Performance Standards must be reviewed and updated every eight years. Standards related to oil and gas drilling were first promulgated in 1985 and have not been updated since.

Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards must be reviewed and updated every eight years. Standards related to oil and gas drilling were first promulgated in 1999 and have not been updated since.

Residual Risk standards must be issued within eight years after Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards. It has been 10 years, yet currently there are no residual risk standards to protect public health.

The sheer numbers of gas production wells (noted here) in some areas buttresses the concerns here:  more than 7,000 in Garfield County, Colorado (where benzene levels have become very high, apparently); and more than 18,000 wells in  San Juan County, New Mexico, which is one of the largest wellfields in the US.

The point is clear:  New York must consider air pollution issues in light of this review of, and potential changes in, Clean Air Act requirements.  The state needs to seriously consider awaiting the outcome of this review, using the time to conduct a far more rigorous examination of this industry and its technologies than performed to date.

The gas industry might agree (but I doubt it), because they could find themselves having to do expensive retrofits if regulations change.  Now that they are on notice that such could be the case, they will not be on firm ground later if they ignore these factors as they proceed.