Monitoring of Emissions at Gas Well Pads Essential to Protect Public Health

by Duane Nichols on November 2, 2018

Energy attorney Jessica Thompson


From an Article by David Beard, Morgantown Dominion Post, October 25, 2018

PITTSBURGH — F e n c e l i n e monitoring is a way to monitor emissions from well pads and other gas industry sites. It’s been talked about in West Virginia for several years, though the state has done nothing about it. Several experts talked about its potential benefits, its limitations and its apparent inevitability during a panel session at the 2018 Shale Insight C o n f e r e n c e.

Fence line monitoring involves setting up air- and weather-monitoring equipment at the edge of well pads to get a handle on what’s escaping from the site into the surrounding community. WVU Professor Michael McCawley recommended to the Legislature several years ago that it’s a good way to track not only air quality, but noise, dust and light pollution. His recommendation came from a study mandated by the Legislature, but the Legislature never did anything with it.

During the panel discussion, energy attorney Jessica Sharrow Thompson explained what fenceline monitoring is. Across all industries — not just natural gas — the EPA’s Air Toxics Initiative and enforcement efforts are leading to fenceline monitoring to reduce hazardous air p o l l u t a n t s. EPA’s action has picked up since 2016, she said, though there are no current federal or state mandates to do it. “But it’s likely to start coming.”

Four factors are driving that movement, she said: air quality and public health data gaps; what EPA terms “citizen science,” which is encouraging people to collect their own data, unfortunately with low cost sensors and monitors that generate unreliable data; community concerns; and EPA’s air quality enforcement and national compliance initiative. Along with addressing those issues, she said, fenceline monitoring can help provide transparency to the public and allow operators to track their data and refine site emissions estimate. But there are risks, too, she said. Among them, the public and agencies can misunderstand and even misuse the data.

Lisa Bailey, senior toxicologist with environmental consulting firm Gradient Corp., talked about public health and the limitations of fenceline monitoring.

“It’s important to think about exposure and also to think about risk,” she said. It has to be understood, she said, that toxic substance concentrations at the monitor won’t be the same as at the source, or out in the community. Concentrations will decrease moving away from the s o u rc e. Data will be affected by other air sources: industry, cars and so on, she said, along with wind and weather. “That has to be considered when considering health impacts.” Out in the community, it’s hard to distinguish wh at ’s coming from the site from what’s coming from other sources such as industry and vehicles, she said. Monitors should also be installed at point in the community, although that data will be affected by other sources, too.

And evaluating the data and how site emissions might affect public health also poses a challenge, she said, because other factors will play a role — such as exposure to other pollutants, smoking and so on. Christopher Rimkus, managing general counsel for MPLX/MarkWest, shared the real life example of adequate data providing a payoff when a citizen complained about site emissions and EPA stepped in with threats of enforcement. “What we assumed to be true was in fact true,” he said. “Folks were safe.” But that was just one site. “There’s still a lack of trust. We need data to inform the public, to inform our operations, to inform rulemaking.”

Having adequate data and sharing it assures the regulators and the public, he said. “We need to gather it in a way where there’s t r a n s p a r e n c y. ” It has to be available to everyone.

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Raina Rippel November 26, 2018 at 11:28 am

To all concerned citizens ………..


We hope that you got all your orders in before everything was sold out for Cyber Monday. It’s almost time to spread the spirit of giving on Giving Tuesday. Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for!

We’re aiming to raise $20,000 to help support individuals and communities that have been, or believe they could be, impacted by fracking. Your donation, no matter the amount, will help us make a difference. Here is what your donation can do:

$35 will provide 100 “Guide to Air Quality Near Shale Gas Sites” refrigerator magnets, which show dangers to residents based on weather and wind conditions.

$50 allows EHP to host a Southwest Pennsylvania community-based shale gas and oil health registry sign up.

$250 provides one air monitor for collecting emissions data so communities can be alerted of potential health impacts from fracking emissions.

$500 helps EHP to publish a community-based story to the Environmental Health Channel, which includes interviews, photographs, and air monitoring data collected on site.

$1,000 supports EHP’s collaboration with a community to complete a health impact assessment report, which is helpful in advocating for stronger zoning ordinances in the face of nearby fracking development.

$15,000 provides a full-scale citizen science data collection and report based on the air, water, and health assessments completed by EHP in a community either before or after the construction of fracking in the area.

Make sure all your friends get a chance to join the movement by sharing this need.

Southwest Penna. Environmental Health Project
2001 Waterdam Plaza Drive, Suite 201
McMurray, PA 15317


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