Watch CBS News

KDKA Investigates: What Role Does Shale Gas Industry Play In Pittsburgh's Air Quality?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Recent tests have shown that Pittsburgh has some of the worst air quality in the country. There are a lot of factors, including the weather, pollution and our region's geography. But what role does the shale gas industry play?

The air we breathe today in Southwestern Pennsylvania is vastly better than the dark days of our industrial past. And, clean air advocates agree that controlling emissions at U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works could put us on par with the rest of the nation.

U.S. Steel says it's committing $200 million to do just that. But even if it succeeds in controlling those emissions, the debate will not end there.

Shale gas and fracking -- well pads, compressor stations and pipelines -- all about to feed the multi-billion-dollar cracker plant in Beaver County.

The cracker plant will be permitted to put 160 tons of particulate matter into the air every year. Sounds like a lot, but it's less than one coal-fired power plant. Environmentalists say the bigger problem with shale gas development is methane and VOCs-- volatile organic compounds -- they say contributes to ozone and global warming. The industry says that threat is over-stated.

Still, it's ignited a debate. Leading the opposition is Mayor Peduto who wants to put the brakes on fracking and the cracker plant in favor of a clean energy future.

But labor leaders -- looking at the cracker's potential for spin-off jobs and economic growth -- believe it's not an either-or proposition.
In any event, the cracker is soon nearing completion and it promises not only hundreds of permanent jobs but spin-off industries nearby.

And there will be this ongoing push and pull between those who welcome this economic shot in the arm and environmental advocates who demand clean air.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.