Natural gas: Five areas of concern

You shouldn't have to trade your health or quality of life for cheap energy. 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.

Building better wells

With more than 1 million active oil and gas wells across the country, ensuring well integrity is critical to preventing air and water contamination for the more than 15 million Americans who live within a mile of these 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, our health and our 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.

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 improve our understanding of wastewater chemicals. We’re also working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of the different options for wastewater disposal and reuse.

Success

We’ve launched several initiatives with academic and industry partners to improve our understanding of wastewater toxicity. And we’ve helped states like North Dakota implement strong performance standards for wastewater pipelines. Finally, we helped launch the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, designed to foster continual regulatory improvement.

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.

Ensure climate benefits

Natural gas is mostly methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

Risks

Methane that is vented or leaked from oil and gas facilities contributes to global warming. EPA estimates that oil and gas facilities emit more than 8 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year.

Progress

We're working with more than 125 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

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.

Empower communities

People have a right to know what chemicals oil and gas companies use and how much pollution they emit into the air. 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 potential health risks. And if companies operate without input from communities, people may be overwhelmed by traffic, noise pollution 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’ve helped launch a new technology app for mobile phones that lets users know who operates wells in their neighborhood, so they can know whom to call if something goes wrong.

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1. Building better wells

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

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


2. Safely dispose of wastewater

Groundwater can also be contaminated by mishandling wastewater. 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

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Risks

If wastewater is mishandled, it can contaminate surface and groundwater. And improperly sited and operated deep well injection sites (a common disposal method) are sometimes linked to earthquakes that usually are small but have the potential to cause damage.

Progress

We're pressing for measures to reduce spills and improve the handling and understanding of chemicals. We’re also working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of wastewater disposal and alternatives.

Success

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.

Safeguard the air we breathe

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 potent greenhouse gas.

Risks

Methane that is vented or leaked from oil and gas facilities contributes to global warming. EPA estimates that oil and gas facilities emit more than 8 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year.

Progress

We're working with more than 125 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

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 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.

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

We’ve helped put in place chemical disclosure regulations in nearly all oil and gas producing states.


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