DOE Panel Issues “Call to Action” on Natural Gas Oversight

November 10, 2011
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Contact:
Mica Odom, (512) 691-3451, modom@edf.org

(Washington, DC – November 10, 2011) A high-level advisory board to Energy Secretary Steven Chu today proposed a focused set of steps for strengthening environmental management in the shale gas industry, following up on its earlier recommendations for increased oversight and transparency with an assessment of their implementation to date and a roadmap for improvement.  

 “Recommendations are only worth the paper they’re printed on if nothing comes of them,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund and one of the panel’s seven members. “Today’s report is a call to action in Washington and in the states to make sure the panel’s recommendations are implemented. It's no simple task to strike a balance between public safety and the development of this crucial energy resource, but it is essential that we do so. The public's right to clean water and clean air cannot be compromised.”

The Subcommittee believes that these recommendations, if implemented, would make real progress toward developing this abundant energy source in ways that safeguard public health and the environment. If action is not taken, however, the rapid expansion of shale gas production poses the risk of serious environmental consequences.

The Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board (SEAB) Shale Gas Production Subcommittee final report says “Americans deserve assurance that the full economic, environmental and energy security benefits of shale gas development will be realized without sacrificing public health, environmental protection and safety.”  

In its first 90-day report, the subcommittee made a series of recommendations for improving oversight and reducing environmental and public health impacts from shale gas production. Today’s 180-day report examines efforts under way to implement those recommendations.  

The final report applauds the Department of Interior for announcing it will propose rules for mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public lands and praises the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission for plans to improve their voluntary disclosure registry called “Frac Focus.” The subcommittee offered support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air pollution standards for the oil and gas sector (noting, however, that the proposed rules fall short by not including direct controls on emissions of methane and by largely ignoring existing sources of pollution).  

The report also acknowledges the difficulty in planning for and mitigating community impacts and cumulative environmental impacts from intensive shale gas production – calling on state and local governments to start experimenting with solutions, and pointing out that the Department of Interior has unique tools and opportunities to address these problems today.

Finally, the report emphasizes the need for rapid progress, saying “If the country is to enjoy the economic and other benefits of shale gas production over the coming years disciplined attention must be devoted to reducing the environmental impact that accompanies this development.” It also calls for cooperation among federal and state regulators, public interest groups and industry.

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