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Herbein Blog

30 Apr

Environmentalists and Producers Join Forces

An Unlikely Partnership: Environmentalists and Producers Join Forces

What do the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, The Clean Air Task Force, CONSOL Energy and EQT all have in common? They are participants of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD).

In a rare collaborative effort, environmentalists and members of the energy industry have come together to adopt rigorous performance standards for sustainable shale development that address air quality, water resources and climate. The official unveiling of the CSSD was made on March 20th and it’s expected that by the end of 2013, shale-gas development companies will be able to apply for CSSD Certification.

Certification Standards
The CSSD partners have identified 15 performance standards that include limits on emissions of methane; the flaring, or burning off, of unwanted gas; reductions in engine emissions; groundwater monitoring and protection; improved well designs; stricter wastewater disposal; use of less toxic fracking fluids; and seismic monitoring before drilling begins.

The certification process, conducted by an independent auditing firm, would result in the rankings of “Certified”, “Certified with Conditions” or “Not Certified”. “Certified with Conditions” would indicate minor deviations for the standard and corrections must be made within 90 days.

Who’s Involved?
The CSSD hopes to recruit additional partners, but currently the list of partners includes Chevron, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), Clean Air Task Force, CONSOL Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, EQT Corporation, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Shell and William Penn Foundation.

Oversight is being provided by a 12-member board consisting of four seats for environmentalists, four for industry and four independent figures including Paul O’Neill, former United States Secretary of the Treasury and retired Chairman and CEO of Alcoa, and energy lobbyist Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Center has established operations in the EQT Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh and is operating on a proposed 2013 budget of $800,000 – funded by CSSD partners.

Immediately following the announcement of the CSSD partnership, harsh criticism flew from numerous environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Ohio Citizen Action. Calling the concept an oxymoron and a sham, these groups are opposed to any type of partnership between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry.

They have also expressed concern that the CSSD will be creating standards, not regulations, and that there is no way to enforce voluntary guidelines. The Environmental Defense Fund shot back against the criticism by noting that the new plan is meant to be a complement to strong regulations, not a replacement.

What it Means for You and Your Business
The CSSD project will initially cover developers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio who are doing work in the Marcellus and Utica formations. With the CSSD focused on better on-site waste management practices, more recycling of wastewater and new air quality performance standards, opportunities for businesses able to provide those services should expand.

For landowners, vendors and suppliers who are concerned about doing business with developers meeting these stricter standards, information on which developers have achieved “Certified” status should be available by early 2014.

For more detailed information, visit: The Center for Sustainable Shale Development.

Elizabeth Bershok

Elizabeth A. Bershok
Regional Marketing Director