Improvements in Air Quality, Health a Direct Benefit of Natural Gas Development

It’s well known that natural gas development has delivered tremendous benefits to the U.S. economy, national security and directly to consumers who are benefitting from historically low energy prices. What isn’t as well-known are the many ancillary air quality and health benefits that have accompanied the surge in domestic gas production.

Since the shale revolution began, a number of key criteria pollutants have dramatically declined, having a profoundly positive effect on public health across the country.

EID_FineParticulateMatter
Source: Energy in Depth

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show a 60 percent decrease in Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) from 2005 to 2013. Over that same period, U.S. natural gas production increased by 35 percent, and natural gas-fired electricity generation increased by 50 percent.

According to the EPA’s 2009 “Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter,” fine particulate matter can cause early death, cardiovascular or respiratory harm.

As University of California-Berkeley physicist Richard Muller explained in a recent report, fine particulate matter is a “horrific environmental problem” in countries like China and India where “air pollution in 2010 led to 3.2 million deaths that year.” But Muller sees natural gas as the solution to that problem thanks to the boom in shale development. According to Muller, shale gas is a gift that has arrived just in time as it can reduce both greenhouse emissions and fine particulate matter.

The same kind of dramatic decline can be seen in emissions of sulfur dioxides (SOx, SO2 and SO3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Between 2005 and 2013, as natural gas use skyrocketed, SO2 declined 68 percent and NO2 declined 52 percent.

Each year, public awareness and understanding of the importance of natural gas continues to grow. In an interview last year, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy deemed natural gas a game changer in the United States’ ability to move forward with pollution reduction. Perhaps Mueller put it best, though, when he said, “Environmentalists should recognize the shale gas revolution as beneficial to society.”

In Pennsylvania, reports have revealed results similar to the ones being registered on the national level. With the increase in natural gas use, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found in 2013 that over 500 million tons of emissions had been removed from the Commonwealth’s air.

In the natural gas emissions inventory issued in 2012 by Pa. DEP, regulators highlighted that the total emissions reductions represented “between $14 billion and $37 billion of annual public health benefits.”

The facts make it clear that the increase in natural gas production and consumption has resulted in improved public health. However, with the increased demands for natural gas comes the need for additional pipeline infrastructure.

Saxum_ASR_201509_SocialAdsV1-01One major infrastructure proposal is the multi-billion dollar Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project, which aims to connect abundant natural gas supplies in Pennsylvania with consumers all along the East Coast.

Your support of this important project will help ensure reliable access to abundant, cost-effective natural gas supplies, allowing Americans to enjoy the economic and health benefits of natural gas.

Visit our Atlantic Sunrise Action Center to learn how you can support this project and the continued utilization of cleaner-burning natural gas.