Natural gas: 5 areas of concern

You shouldn't have to trade your health or quality of life for cheap energy. On many fronts, we're fighting for tough rules and strict oversight.

Graphic: 5 areas of concern are building better wells, safely managing wastewater, safeguarding our air, ensuring climate benefits and empowering communities.
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1. Building better wells

With more than 1 million active oil and gas wells in the U.S., ensuring well integrity is critical to preventing air and water contamination for the more than 15 million Americans who live within a mile of those facilities.

Risks

Poor well design, construction and maintenance practices can increase the chance of a well leak or blowout, so it's crucial that every aspect of a well’s life cycle – from drilling to plugging – is properly executed to reduce threats to our environment, health and safety.

Progress

We're in constant contact with key government agencies and industry decision-makers, helping them understand and implement the right standards, rules and oversight for well development and operations.

Success

EDF's efforts in major oil- and gas-producing states – Arkansas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – helped enact strong protections and best practices for well integrity.

2. Safely manage wastewater

Water produced in the hydraulic fracturing process is salty and toxic and must be treated, transported and disposed of safely.

Risks

If wastewater is mishandled or a pipeline leaks, our farmlands and groundwater could become contaminated – sometimes for decades. And if it is used to irrigate food crops before we know more about toxicity levels, public health could be put at risk.

Progress

We're pressing for measures to reduce pipeline spills and working with scientists and industry experts to better understand wastewater chemicals. We’re also working with stakeholders to improve the efficiency of different options for wastewater disposal and reuse.

Success

We’ve helped states like North Dakota implement strong performance standards for wastewater pipelines. And we helped launch the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, designed to foster continual regulatory improvement.

3. Safeguard our air

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

Risks

People who live near oil and gas activities may be exposed to air toxics like benzene, a known carcinogen. And emissions of smog-forming pollutants can cause respiratory illness.

Progress

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

Success

In 2016, we helped pass the first national rules to reduce methane and other air pollution from the oil and gas industry. (We are now defending these rules from attacks by the Trump administration.) States such as Wyoming, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania are also enacting efforts to reduce this air pollution.

4. Ensure climate benefits

Natural gas is mostly methane – a greenhouse gas that is initially more potent than carbon dioxide.

Risks

Methane that is vented or leaked from oil and gas facilities contributes to global warming. An extensive scientific collaboration found that U.S. oil and gas facilities emit more than 13 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year.

Progress

We worked with more than 140 academic experts, scientists and industry companies to help measure and reduce methane emissions, and educate industry and others about the importance of finding and fixing leaks along the natural gas supply chain – from production well to burner tip.

Success

In 2016, EPA finalized the first rule to directly limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations. (We’re fighting to make sure federal rules stay in place, despite attacks from the Trump administration.) This landmark followed progress in Colorado, which in 2014 became the first state to directly regulate methane.

5. Empower communities

People have a right to know what chemicals oil and gas companies use and how much pollution they emit. They also have the right to exercise their traditional authorities over this intensive industrial activity.

Risks

If companies don't have to name the chemicals they use, or monitor their emissions, communities can't assess health risks. And if companies operate without community input, people may face more traffic, noise and other problems.

Progress

We're asking governments to require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in public databases. And we're pushing to preserve the traditional rights of communities to make decisions about development in their area.

Success

We’ve helped put in place chemical disclosure regulations in nearly all oil- and gas-producing states. And we helped launch an app that tells users who operates wells nearby, so they'll know whom to call if something goes wrong.

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1. Building better wells

With more than 1 million active oil and gas wells in the U.S., ensuring well integrity is critical to preventing air and water contamination for the more than 15 million Americans who live within a mile of those facilities.

Risks

Poor well design, construction and maintenance practices can increase the chance of a well leak or blowout, so it's crucial that every aspect of a well’s life cycle – from drilling to plugging – is properly executed to reduce threats to our environment, health and safety.

Progress

We're in constant contact with key government agencies and industry decision-makers, helping them understand and implement the right standards, rules and oversight for well development and operations.

Success

EDF's efforts in major oil- and gas-producing states – Arkansas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – helped enact strong protections and best practices for well integrity.


2. Safely manage wastewater

Water produced in the hydraulic fracturing process is salty and toxic and must be treated, transported and disposed of safely.

Risks

If wastewater is mishandled or a pipeline leaks, our farmlands and groundwater could become contaminated – sometimes for decades. And if it is used to irrigate food crops before we know more about toxicity levels, public health could be put at risk.

Progress

We're pressing for measures to reduce pipeline spills and working with scientists and industry experts to better understand wastewater chemicals. We’re also working with stakeholders to improve the efficiency of different options for wastewater disposal and reuse.

Success

We’ve helped states like North Dakota implement strong performance standards for wastewater pipelines. And we helped launch the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, designed to foster continual regulatory improvement.


3. Safeguard our air

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

Risks

People who live near oil and gas activities may be exposed to air toxics like benzene, a known carcinogen. And emissions of smog-forming pollutants can cause respiratory illness.

Progress

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

Success

In 2016, we helped pass the first national rules to reduce methane and other air pollution from the oil and gas industry. (We are now defending these rules from attacks by the Trump administration.) States such as Wyoming, Colorado, California and Pennsylvania are also enacting efforts to reduce this air pollution.


4. Ensure climate benefits

Natural gas is mostly methane – a greenhouse gas that is initially more potent than carbon dioxide.

Risks

Methane that is vented or leaked from oil and gas facilities contributes to global warming. An extensive scientific collaboration found that U.S. oil and gas facilities emit more than 13 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year.

Progress

We worked with more than 140 academic experts, scientists and industry companies to help measure and reduce methane emissions, and educate industry and others about the importance of finding and fixing leaks along the natural gas supply chain – from production well to burner tip.

Success

In 2016, EPA finalized the first rule to directly limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations. (We’re fighting to make sure federal rules stay in place, despite attacks from the Trump administration.) This landmark followed progress in Colorado, which in 2014 became the first state to directly regulate methane.


5. Empower communities

People have a right to know what chemicals oil and gas companies use and how much pollution they emit. They also have the right to exercise their traditional authorities over this intensive industrial activity.

Risks

If companies don't have to name the chemicals they use, or monitor their emissions, communities can't assess health risks. And if companies operate without community input, people may face more traffic, noise and other problems.

Progress

We're asking governments to require companies to disclose the chemicals they use in public databases. And we're pushing to preserve the traditional rights of communities to make decisions about development in their area.

Success

We’ve helped put in place chemical disclosure regulations in nearly all oil- and gas-producing states. And we helped launch an app that tells users who operates wells nearby, so they'll know whom to call if something goes wrong.



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