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

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

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

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.

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 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 ever national rules to reduce methane and other air pollution from the oil and gas industry. States such as Wyoming, Colorado and California 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 nearly 10 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. This follows progress in Colorado, which in 2014 became the first state to directly regulate methane.

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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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

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 the air we breathe

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 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 ever national rules to reduce methane and other air pollution from the oil and gas industry. States such as Wyoming, Colorado and California 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 nearly 10 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 2015, EPA proposed the first rule to directly regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations. This follows 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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