Pennsylvania Adds New Air Quality Forecast Areas In August

Air quality forecasts will soon cover more areas of Pennsylvania.   The Department of Environmental Protection is adding 8 new areas to its forecasts starting August 1st.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday says the summer’s record heat waves have brought the need for increased ozone surveillance. He says hot and humid weather can put a lot of ozone into the air. He says it’s important to keep in mind the impact the weather can have on our air quality. High levels of ozone can make it more difficult for some people to breathe.

Altoona, Erie, Johnstown, Scranton Wilkes-Barre, State College, Williamsport, Mercer County and Indiana County will be added to the existing five regions; the Lehigh and Susquehanna Valleys and the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Liberty-Clairton Regions.

There have been a number of Code Orange alerts in the original five forecasting areas this summer.  Those mean air quality can be unhealthy for sensitive people including the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory problems.  There have been no Code Red alerts, meaning air quality is unhealthy for everyone. Sunday says the number of Code Red alerts has been declining for the past five years as pollution levels improve.

Sunday says people in the new areas can connect to the forecasts by going on line to  They can sign up to receive the air quality forecasts in their email.

Marcellus Shale

Lawmakers, Environmental Groups Call for More Control of Air Emissions From Drilling Industry

Some state lawmakers and a number of environmental groups say there’s not enough attention being paid to air pollution caused by Marcellus Shale drilling.   Representative Greg Vitali (D-Del.) says the Department of Environmental Protection must do more to address air pollution caused by drilling activity.     

Vitali says a lot of the pollution comes from the various machinery used in the drilling process. He cites compressors, condensate tanks, dehydrators and other equipment.  He says the pollutants involved are nitrous oxides,   sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and methane.

Vitali says DEP needs to increase its air pollution staffing to address the problems.  He says they need more money, and the way to do that is to increase air pollution fees.  He says regulations under the Rendell administration which would have given DEP 8 million dollars more the air program were stopped by the Corbett administration.  He says the state needs to enact those air pollution fees.

Vitali adds that DEP needs to require drillers to use best available pollution control devices for their compressor engines.

Representative Camille “Bud” George (D-Clearfield) says we have to make sure our state and federal governments have appropriate oversight. He called on state government to look past what’s most convenient for industrial gas drillers and do what’s best for Pennsylvania.

Representative Eugene DePasquale (D-York) says the state needs a fair and adequate Marcellus Shale drilling tax to ensure the state has both clean air and water.  He says the state needs people in DEP fully staffed with the tools to protect the environment.

Jan Jarrett of PennFuture says air emissions from the Marcellus Shale industry will make it extremely difficult for Pennsylvania to attain healthy air, if the state doesn’t use the regulations currently at its disposal to reduce emissions as the industry develops.      

Jarrett says Pennsylvania does not meet the national health based standards for ozone pollution, but the southwest regional office of DEP alone has permitted more than 13 thousand tons per year of nitrous oxide emissions associated with the Marcellus industry. She says DEP also needs to require drillers to provide accurate information about emissions from gas development activities.  She says it’s time to end the gas industry’s exemption from air pollution laws; otherwise, Pennsylvania’s air quality will deteriorate.

Representatives of other groups including the American Lung Association and Sierra Club also spoke out for more regulation of air emissions from the natural gas drilling industry.