By ROBERT SCHROEDER
WASHINGTON -- Wells where natural gas is captured through the controversial "fracking" technique will have until 2015 to comply with new rules designed to reduce air pollution, the US Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
The rules, first proposed in July, would compel drillers to capture the emissions resulting from drilling the wells.
The EPA said it is phasing in the rules for "fracked" natural gas wells to "ensure emissions reduction technology is broadly available."
Some environmentalists say that fracking - which involves the blasting of water and chemicals underground to extract natural gas or oil - threatens groundwater near homes and schools.
President Barack Obama regularly says that natural gas is an important part of the US energy supply, and has voiced support for fracking that doesn't endanger health or safety.
Republicans, meanwhile, accuse the president of trying to put the brakes on fracking.
Last week, Obama set up an interagency group to coordinate US policy regulating natural gas drilling methods including fracking, formally called hydraulic fracturing.
The EPA says that companies will be able to sell the gas that they capture as a result of the rules. Industry will save between $11 million to $19 million a year, the agency estimated.
"By ensuring the capture of gases that were previously released to pollute our air and threaten our climate, these updated standards will not only protect our health, but also lead to more product for fuel suppliers to bring to market," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement.
The oil and gas industry last week told the EPA that controls on wells that have low amounts of volatile organic compounds from drilling-related emissions won't be cost-effective.
In a letter to Jackson, American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Jack Gerard said control measures should only apply to wells whose gas stream is 10% or more of volatile organic compounds.
Dow Jones Newswires