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EPA new fracking standards debated

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By Deb Courson Smith

The Environmental Protection Agency held hearings last week on new nationwide environmental standards for the process known as fracking. The EPA proposed changes to fracking emissions standards, requiring wells to be fitted with a special piece of equipment that will separate oil and gas from fracking byproducts. Those byproducts have been linked to air and water pollution in Montana, with some people claiming their health has been harmed.

Retired EPA scientist Weston Wilson testified, saying the new standards are similar to those currently on the books in Colorado and Wyoming that are not being enforced on a consistent basis.

“It would require this produced water that comes back after a fracking job to be collected in a process called a ‘green completion.’ Right now, the industry does not do this.”

Industry representatives counter that the equipment is too expensive, that health problems have not been proven, and that new technologies being implemented erase the need for treating the wastewater.

David Ellenberger, Colorado-based regional outreach coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, says the EPA is taking a big step in the right direction.

“This is a win-win for both the environment and the economy. The fact of the matter is that these rules are long overdue.”

The equipment would not only capture contaminants, but also recover oil and gas that slips through current processing. The agency must take final action on the proposal by Feb. 28, 2012.

The EPA site for the proposed fracking regulations is epa.gov.

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