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EPA and PennTex reach preliminary agreement to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions

Release Date: 10/25/2006
Contact Information: CONTACT: Anne Rowan, (312) 353-9391, rowan.anne@epa.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 06OPA-197

CHICAGO (Oct. 25, 2006) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 today announced that it has reached a preliminary agreement with PennTex Resources Illinois Inc. and Rex Energy Operating Corp. regarding air emissions from the oil production operation near Bridgeport, Ill. EPA will continue to seek a final and legally binding agreement aimed at drastically reducing emissions of hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds.

"I want to assure people who live in Bridgeport and Petrolia that EPA is listening to your concerns and is committed to making sure the air you breathe is safe and healthy," said Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. "Today's agreement is a good start - and some work is already underway - but more must be done."

A final agreement would outline specific actions and deadlines for each of the four major sources of hydrogen sulfide and VOCs. The key would be the installation of a network of state-of-the-art elevated flares that will destroy hydrogen sulfide and VOCs from all the sources. In addition, a new automatic shutdown system would virtually eliminate the use of emergency pits.

Today's preliminary agreement follows an extensive investigation into complaints from residents about the emissions and their potential impact on public health.

At EPA's request, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted an exposure investigation to assess and evaluate potential health effects. ATSDR will explain its findings at a public meeting in Bridgeport tonight.

"Smelling gas does not mean that you will have a negative health effect. However, there are specific locations in the Bridgeport and Petrolia areas where the levels of hydrogen sulfide detected in our sampling are considered to be a public health hazard," said Mark Johnson, PhD, an ATSDR senior environmental health scientist. "We are making strong recommendations that actions be taken to reduce these exposure levels through better control of emissions from the oil production facilities."

"I am committed to keeping residents informed of progress at every step of the way," said the regional administrator. "Information on the preliminary agreement and the steps underway to reduce emissions as well as ATSDR's fact sheet with advice and precautions for Bridgeport and Petrolia residents will be posted on EPA's Web site."

For more information on this subject from both EPA and ATSDR, go to www.epa.gov/region5/sites/bridgeport

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