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EPA to Cut Air Pollution from Natural Gas 'Fracking'
Date:4/18/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday issued the first national standards to curb air pollution linked with the controversial practice of "fracking."

Fracking refers to hydraulic fracturing, a way to obtain natural gas by forcing fluid into a well to fracture rocks and thus release gas.

Natural gas is being touted by the Obama Administration as a clean energy source and one that does not rely on foreign suppliers.

The standards, to take full effect at the beginning of 2015, "will reduce smog-forming air pollution along with cancer-causing air toxins," contends Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"Smog formation has been linked to various health ills including asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths," she added.

Smog also emits toxins such as benzene that can cause cancer, said McCarthy, who spoke at a Wednesday news conference.

McCarthy estimated that the rule will cut volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog by 190,000 to 290,000 tons a year, and benzene by 12,000 to 15,000 tons a year.

Although the rule does not directly target greenhouse gases, methane levels will also be reduced as a byproduct of technologies required to meet the tougher standard, she said.

Environmentalists have been concerned about natural gas that escapes these wells, filtering up into the air and potentially harming human health.

In a statement released Wednesday, Meleah Geertsma, of the environmental watchdog group National Resources Defense Council, called the EPA move "a critical step toward protecting our kids, our communities and our planet." But Geertsma, an attorney for NRDC's climate and clean air program, also said that the initiative does not go far enough. "The EPA needs t
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