Article by Marcellus Drilling News – Published February 14, 2023. Multi-Year Test of Range Well in SWPA Proves No Air Pollution | Marcellus Drilling News

Anti-drillers, continually make false accusations against the shale industry in the southwestern Pennsylvania area, alleging that fracking is the cause of rare forms of cancer in children (see More Reckless Accusations that Shale Causes Cancer in SWPA Kids). In order to quell these false accusations, Range Resources commissioned and paid for two independent air monitoring studies. We told you about one of the studies, set up in Cecil Township (Washington County), back in June 2020 (see Range Resources Begins New Air Monitoring Test at SWPA Well Site). The results from that study are now in. According to third-party findings, the Cecil study showed no elevated concentration of air pollution in the area.

Range set up seven monitors upwind and downwind between 204 and 940 feet from the wells between June 2019 and December 2021 for two separate types of emissions, PM2.5 particulate matter and volatile organic chemicals. Here’s what the research found…

Range Resources Corp. touted a long-term monitoring of air around a Cecil Township well pad that it said showed no elevated concentration of pollution in the area, although an environmental group questioned some of the findings.

The natural gas producer (NYSE: RRC) paid for and set up seven monitors upwind and downwind between 204 and 940 feet from the wells between June 2019 and December 2021 for two separate types of emissions, PM2.5 particulate matter and volatile organic chemicals. The Augustine well pad is located near a housing development in Cecil Township.

Range said the findings showed that the 24-hour concentrations of PM2.5, a pollutant, were under the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard. It also said that long-term average concentrations for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes were also below standards. The results was analyzed by a third-party, Gradient.

Many of the PM2.5 readings that were above average happened at times when there was no drilling or hydraulic fracturing on the well site and usually in either the preconstruction or construction phase, Range said.

There were some elevated PM2.5 during drilling but it was below the thresholds set by the EPA.

“We had some detection levels but nothing that was above the health-based levels that it was being compared against,” said Mark Wayner, Range’s manager of field environmental compliance.

This is the second voluntary air monitoring system that Range has deployed over the past several years. The first had been deployed in the area of the Fort Cherry School District although the data took longer to compile. For the Augustine site, Range provided weekly updates on what was being found because it took several days to get some of the data back from the lab. The website, which is still available, provides data as well as filtering for the stage of well development.

The monitors were placed outside a 30-foot-high sound barrier that was installed to reduce sound levels for neighbors.

But the Environmental Health Project, a McMurray-based nonprofit that advises residents of gas drilling areas including Washington County, said the monitoring and data released by Range isn’t enough to prove the company’s claim that the Augustine well site didn’t contribute to elevated health risks. It said the report doesn’t address health risks from high episodic exposures.

“The monitoring results in this report are presented as long-term averages. Averaged monitor readings do not provide a full picture of toxic substance exposure to people,” said Nathan Deron, environmental data scientist at the Environmental Health Project.

Deron said well sites release toxic substances at inconsistent rates.

“This means that there are times when there are spikes or peaks in emissions. These spikes are most concerning, as they have the potential to produce the most harmful effects on the health of individuals living nearby,” Deron said.

Range said the data was evaluated and reviewed by a third-party board-certified toxicologist.

“This air monitoring project was completely voluntarily, and one we decided to act on through conversations with nearby residents and as part of our overall air program. The goal was to provide as close to real-time data to the community,” said Range spokesman Mark Windle. “The data, which was collected and prepared by a third-party lab, does not show signs of any high episodic exposures to toxic chemicals. The monitoring was designed in according with the EPA prescribed methodologies.”* (Source – Pittsburgh (PA) Business Times (Feb. 13, 2023) – Range Resources touts monitoring of air quality near Cecil well site. 

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