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Pa. expands air monitoring in Marcellus natural gas areas

Air monitoring in 10 Pennsylvania counties to study human health risks arising from Marcellus natural gas compressors.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

April 30, 2016

2 Min Read

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is launching an expanded air quality monitoring system in natural gas production area of 10 counties. “We have heard citizens of this commonwealth express concerns about air quality in areas near natural gas activities,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “With this expansion, we can better assess the [particulate matter] ambient air in the natural gas regions.”


In April 2014, Farm Progress reported that environmental groups initially were "fracking mad" about the latest assessment of natural gas releases discovered around Marcellus natural gas wells during a 2012 aerial sensing survey by scientists at Purdue and Cornell universities over southwest Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Methane emissions from seven wells were 100 to 1,000 times U.S. EPA's estimate of losses. Some 40 wells were together emitting 34 grams of methane per second per well, according to the study. For more details, click on Marcellus shale methane gases wrongly tagged to fracking.

“Focusing on the regions with significant numbers of natural gas compressor stations, we’re installing continuous PM2.5 samplers in under-monitored areas,” explained Quigley. “We simply don’t have data on air quality in these areas. We need that data and monitoring capability to help us understand whether or not there are risks or impacts to public health from current air quality in these areas.”
By the fall of 2017, DEP will add samplers in 10 northern tier and southwestern counties, including two already operating in Greene and Bradford counties. Monitors will be installed in Fayette, Indiana, Lycoming, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties by the end of 2016. More will be installed in Clarion, Jefferson, and McKean counties by the fall of 2017.
Total cost of the expansion over a five-year period is approximately $1.56 million. Federal Clean Air Act grant funds received by DEP under the PM2.5 Air Monitoring Network Grant will help defray the network cost.
Fine particulate pollution includes nitrates and sulfates, organic chemicals, metals, and soils or dust. They result from a wide range of industrial processes and fuel combustion, including emissions caused by logging, agriculture, natural gas development and transmission, and vehicles.

Human health impacts include decreased lung function and increased respiratory symptoms and disease. Young children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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