“A Critical Assessment of ‘Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: A community-based exploratory study’

Published February 17, 2015

In October 2014, Environmental Health published a study purporting to show fracking operations for oil and gas production cause dangerous air quality issues. The study has been cited by environmental groups, the media, and some policymakers as “proof” of the dangers associated with fracking.

In this Policy Brief for The Heartland Institute, chemist and environmental consultant Rich Trzupek identifies significant flaws in the study. For example,

  • the study’s authors did not conduct upwind and downwind sampling, but rather assumed background concentrations based on national averages;
  • the risk levels used are based on a lifetime of exposure to the target pollutant at the measured concentration. In the majority of cases this comparison is not scientifically defensible; and
  • the study is not an examination of air quality during fracking, but rather an examination of air quality near operations and equipment common to oil and natural gas production and transportation regardless of whether the well was fracked.

Trzupek also notes, “In 60 percent of the sampling events, … concentrations of target pollutants did not exceed the alarm levels set by the authors. To their credit, the authors did not attempt to hide this fact. Nevertheless, this fact has been routinely ignored by media and policymakers …”