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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

Sierra Club * San Juan Citizens Alliance * North Central Texas Communities Alliance * EARTHWORKS Texas Oil and Gas Project * Downwinders at Risk

July 28, 2010

Contact: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512.289.8618, Oliver.Bernstein@sierraclub.org

Americans Demand Tough Air Quality Standards to Regulate Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Industries

Arlington, TX and Denver, CO – Ramped up oil and gas drilling has outgrown the regulations meant to protect clean air, public health, and the environment, spurring hundreds of concerned local residents to attend public meetings next week to call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt tougher regulations. Although there are only two meetings nationwide, the air quality standards affect millions of Americans.

"The EPA must do a better job in regulating air emissions from oil and gas drilling operations," said Jen Powis, Sierra Club Senior Regional Representative for Texas. "From coast to coast, drilling regulations need to be stronger and better enforced and loopholes for these industries should be closed. The EPA has the responsibility to protect our health, our water and our air but can only do so by adequately regulating emissions from natural gas and oil production."

Natural gas is a significant contributor to air quality emissions -- like nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (both ozone precursors) and greenhouse gases -- at the drilling, well operation, compression, and pipeline transportation phases.

"Proper regulation can prevent the kind of damage in other communities that we are experiencing here in the Barnett Shale areas of North Texas," said Sharon Wilson with EARTHWORKS Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project. "To protect public health anywhere gas companies are operating, we want the operations to use the best available controls. Air pollution happens at every stage of the natural gas process, and the industry must control emissions so our air is safe to breathe."

"Officials need to do baseline and follow-up testing before starting any exploratory drilling activity, and landowners should not have to pay for that," said Esther McElfish, President of (NCTCA) North Central Texas Communities Alliance.

In Colorado, oil and gas well permitting has increased exponentially since 2005, and this year the gas and oil industry has begun increasing their permit applications to drill again.

"The Colorado Chapter of Sierra Club urges EPA officials to update antiquated air quality standards to regulate oil and gas emissions; especially in rural areas where vulnerable residents are directly exposed to undisclosed hazardous air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds like BETX and other toxic gases that are a threat to human health and the environment," said Gopa Ross, Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter Oil and Gas Chair. "Current Colorado Department of Health’s, Air Quality rules and regulations, are not sufficient to protect citizens living in the path of oil and gas development and production.”

Strong regulations are critical to reducing harmful air pollution and protecting public health and welfare nationwide. As part of this effort, the EPA has scheduled two public hearings—one in Arlington, Texas (August 2) and one in Denver, Colorado (August 3) to take public comment on air quality regulation of the oil and gas industries. For more information on those meetings visit http://sc.org/airmeetings

The EPA has committed to completing a comprehensive update of federal air quality regulations for oil and gas drilling operations. Under a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and San Juan Citizens Alliance, EPA has to propose updated rules by January 31, 2011 and will finalize those rules by November 30, 2011.

For a recording of today's media teleconference with local activists and experts, please contact Oliver Bernstein at Sierra Club, Oliver.Bernstein@sierraclub.org or 512.289.8618.

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