Natural gas: Five areas of concern

No one should have to trade their health or quality of life for cheap energy. EDF is fighting for tough rules and strict oversight.

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Graphic: 5 areas of concern are protecting groundwater, safely disposing of wastewater, safeguarding the air, ensuring climate benefits and empowering communities.

Protect our groundwater

At a well site, groundwater can be contaminated through faulty well construction or chemical spills at the surface. In both cases, strong rules and oversight are the keys to public safety.

Risks

Poor well casing or cement jobs can increase the chance of methane leaks or groundwater contamination, so it's crucial that every aspect of the drilling process—including how the well is constructed—is executed properly.

Progress

We're in constant contact with key government and industry decision-makers, helping them understand—and implement—important quality controls: The right standards, rules and oversight for well construction and design.

Success

Following EDF's efforts in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Texas each of these states have enacted regulations to advance best practices for well integrity.

Safely dispose of wastewater

Groundwater can also be contaminated by mishandling waste water. Water used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, as well as water released from the shale along with the gas must be treated and disposed of properly.

Risks

If wastewater is mishandled, it can contaminate surface and groundwater. And improperly sited and operated deep well injection sites (a common disposal method) may be linked to small tremors.

Progress

We're pressing for measures to reduce spills, improve the handling of chemicals and assure proper treatment and/or disposal of wastewater.

Success

Nationally, we’ve promoted regulatory guidelines from STRONGER (State Review of Oil & Gas Environmental Regulation) that are a good foundation for reducing risks from water and waste management.

Safeguard the air we breathe

As natural gas is extracted and processed air pollutants can leak into the atmosphere.

Risks

Emissions of toxic and smog-forming pollutants—like benzene, a known carcinogen—can lead to health problems like asthma, cancer and long-term lung damage in people who live nearby.

Progress

We aggressively advocate for clean air standards for all industrial and energy sources, including shale gas, at both the state and federal level.

Success

In April 2012, we were involved in passing, and are now defending, strong national clean air standards for oil and natural gas that reduce pollution and protect human health and the environment.

Ensure climate benefits

Natural gas—comprised mostly of methane—burns cleaner than coal, but when it is vented or leaks from wells and pipelines uncombusted, it is a powerful greenhouse gas. The good news is, we have the technology to avoid venting and fix leaks.

Risks

The more methane is lost into the atmosphere, the less using natural gas—as compared to other fossil fuels—delivers climate benefits. We must reduce venting and fix leaks.

Progress

We're working with academic experts, scientists and industry companies to help measure and reduce methane emissions, and educating industry and others about the importance of finding and fixing leaks along the natural gas supply chain – from production well to burner tip.

Success

EDF is collaborating with more than 90 partners on 16 studies to better understand methane emissions across natural gas operations. Also, our scientists developed a modeling tool to show how methane emissions affect climate change.

Empower communities

People have a right to know what chemicals are being used in their community, what is being emitted into the air, and what is in the wastewater being produced on site. They also have the right to exercise their traditional authorities over this intensive industrial activity.

Risks

If companies aren't required to name the chemicals they use, or monitor their air emissions, it's impossible for a community to assess risks. And if companies can proceed without input from communities, people may be overwhelmed by traffic and noise.

Progress

We're asking governments to require companies to name the chemicals they use, so communities can make informed decisions. And we're pushing to preserve the traditional rights of communities to make decisions about development within their borders.

Success

In 2012, we supported a Pennsylvania court ruling overturning limits on local oversight of natural gas development. And we’ve helped put in place chemical disclosure regulations in 20 states and counting.

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1. Protect our groundwater

At a well site, groundwater can be contaminated through faulty well construction or chemical spills at the surface. In both cases, strong rules and oversight are the keys to public safety.

Risks

Poor well casing or cement jobs can increase the chance of methane leaks or groundwater contamination, so it's crucial that every aspect of the drilling process—including how the well is constructed—is executed properly.

Progress

We're in constant contact with key government and industry decision-makers, helping them understand—and implement—important quality controls: The right standards, rules and oversight for well construction and design.

Success

Following EDF's efforts in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Texas each of these states have enacted regulations to advance best practices for well integrity.


2. Safely dispose of wastewater

Groundwater can also be contaminated by mishandling waste water. Water used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, as well as water released from the shale along with the gas must be treated and disposed of properly.

Risks

If wastewater is mishandled, it can contaminate surface and groundwater. And improperly sited and operated deep well injection sites (a common disposal method) may be linked to small tremors.

Progress

We're pressing for measures to reduce spills, improve the handling of chemicals and assure proper treatment and/or disposal of wastewater.

Success

Nationally, we’ve promoted regulatory guidelines from STRONGER (State Review of Oil & Gas Environmental Regulation) that are a good foundation for reducing risks from water and waste management.


3. Safeguard the air we breathe

As natural gas is extracted and processed air pollutants can leak into the atmosphere.

Risks

Emissions of toxic and smog-forming pollutants—like benzene, a known carcinogen—can lead to health problems like asthma, cancer and long-term lung damage in people who live nearby.

Progress

We aggressively advocate for clean air standards for all industrial and energy sources, including shale gas, at both the state and federal level.

Success

In April 2012, we were involved in passing, and are now defending, strong national clean air standards for oil and natural gas that reduce pollution and protect human health and the environment.


4. Ensure climate benefits

Natural gas—comprised mostly of methane—burns cleaner than coal, but when it is vented or leaks from wells and pipelines uncombusted, it is a powerful greenhouse gas. The good news is, we have the technology to avoid venting and fix leaks.

Risks

The more methane is lost into the atmosphere, the less using natural gas—as compared to other fossil fuels—delivers climate benefits. We must reduce venting and fix leaks.

Progress

We're working with academic experts, scientists and industry companies to help measure and reduce methane emissions, and educating industry and others about the importance of finding and fixing leaks along the natural gas supply chain – from production well to burner tip.

Success

EDF is collaborating with more than 90 partners on 16 studies to better understand methane emissions across natural gas operations. Also, our scientists developed a modeling tool to show how methane emissions affect climate change.


5. Empower communities

People have a right to know what chemicals are being used in their community, what is being emitted into the air, and what is in the wastewater being produced on site. They also have the right to exercise their traditional authorities over this intensive industrial activity.

Risks

If companies aren't required to name the chemicals they use, or monitor their air emissions, it's impossible for a community to assess risks. And if companies can proceed without input from communities, people may be overwhelmed by traffic and noise.

Progress

We're asking governments to require companies to name the chemicals they use, so communities can make informed decisions. And we're pushing to preserve the traditional rights of communities to make decisions about development within their borders.

Success

In 2012, we supported a Pennsylvania court ruling overturning limits on local oversight of natural gas development. And we’ve helped put in place chemical disclosure regulations in 20 states and counting.


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