WHEELING - Natural gas companies may drill as many as 100,000 new shale gas wells over the next few decades, but this could significantly damage the environment unless companies reduce their impacts, a federal advisory board finds.
A spokesman for the Canonsburg, Pa.-based Marcellus Shale Coalition said his group - which includes Chesapeake Energy, Consol Energy, XTO Energy and Chevron, among other companies working in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio - said his industry is doing everything it can to cooperate with federal and state regulators to ensure safe development.
"Our industry's commitment to ensuring that our environment is protected is second to none, and we continue work closely with state regulators to advance common-sense efforts aimed at responsibly developing clean-burning American natural gas," said spokesman Travis Windle.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Natural gas abstractors remain busy looking through property deeds at courthouses throughout eastern Ohio, including in Harrison County. A U.S. Department of Energy advisory board said there may be “serious environmental consequences” if the impact of gas drilling is not reduced.
However, Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg disagrees.
"The way the gas industry has been doing business leaves the water we drink and the air we breathe at risk for dangerous pollution," she said. "The people downstream and downwind from the gasfields don't have any more time to waste."
The U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu's Advisory Board Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production released its report reviewing the progress that has been made in implementing new safety and environmental standards for gas drilling and fracking. Members do not believe the industry is making sufficient progress.
"If action is not taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the very considerable expansion of shale gas production expected across the country, there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences and a loss of public confidence that could delay or stop this activity," the report states.
"The development of shale gas is one of the biggest energy innovations, if not the biggest, in several decades," said subcommittee Chairman John Deutch, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But to ensure the full benefits to the American people, environmental issues need to be addressed now - especially in terms of wastewater, air quality, and community impact."
Among the recommendations the subcommittee makes to improve the safety of gas drilling operations are to reduce air emissions; to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in fracking fluid; to study methane migration to water reservoirs; to adopt better standards for well construction; and to adopt new rules to ensure safe drinking water.
In addition to Deutch, members of the subcommittee are Stephen Holditch of Texas A&M; Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund; Kathleen McGinty of Weston Solutions; Susan Tierney of the Analysis Group; Daniel Yergin of IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates; and Mark Zoback of Stanford University.