The Obama administration tightened regulations on the oil and gas industry Wednesday, requiring drillers to capture emissions of certain air pollutants from new wells.
But in a nod to industry concerns that the rules were being enacted too quickly, the Environmental Protection Agency said companies can burn the pollutants at the well head until the start of 2015, when enough equipment is expected to be available to capture the pollution.
The administration said the regulations are part of President Obama's promise to develop the nation's oil and gas resources in a manner that protects the environment and the public health.
"The standards are practice, flexible, affordable and achievable," Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said on a conference call with reporters.
The rule will require all oil and gas companies to capture the volatile organic compounds that are emitted during the final stages of well construction, including during the process of hydraulic fracturing.
That process, known as fracking for short, eases the flow of oil or gas from dense shale rock by injecting water, sand and some chemicals deep into the earth.
Fracking has unlocked an energy boom in the United States, but has also led to concerns about groundwater contamination and earthquakes.
The equipment used to capture the pollution largely consists of truck-mounted tanks and hoses that separate the gas from the liquids. Currently, that gas is often just released into the atmosphere.