Environment
6:16 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Air Quality Tops List of Concerns Surrounding Planned Allegheny County Gas Compressor

The Allegheny Health Department has issued a draft permit for the first Marcellus Shale compressor station in the county, and already more than a hundred people have expressed concern over what that could mean for air quality.

The planned gas compressor would be located on Kissick Lane, near the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer Township. A public hearing on the plan is slated for Tuesday evening, and several environmental groups are teaming up to voice their concern.

"Over the past three or four years we've seen hundreds of new compressor stations built, thousands of wells, and these are sources on nitrogen oxide, VOCs, methane, a number of other pollutants, and many of these pollutants are ozone precursors," said Joe Osborne, legal director with Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP).

Ozone precursors are the chemicals that react with sunlight to produce ground level ozone, which can pose threats to health.

The facility would be built by Superior Appalachian Pipeline, and according to officials with that company, would not be a major source of pollution.

"What we're using is the best technology available with the ultra-lean burn caterpillar engines. This is actually a minor site. Our discharge emissions levels are significantly less than the Allegheny County requirement. We're 50% less than all of the component categories," said Ken Magyar, vice president for project development with Superior.

GASP's Joe Osborne agrees that the source by itself may be considered minor, but when you add up the total amount of pollution from many such sources, it's a lot. So, he said, the overarching concern for environmental groups is what is happening on the larger scale.

"When you look at the amount of pollution this new industry is generating, and how little regulation it's subject to, I think it has the potential to reverse all the progress we've made, maybe even take us in the other direction," said Osborne.

But because of the geography of Allegheny County, there likely won't be numerous compressors, according to Magyar. He said the company looks for sites away from densely populated areas, which limits its options here.

The Allegheny County Health Department is taking email comments on the planned facility, and holds a public hearing on it Tuesday evening.