In the August 18, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Fred Krupp has an editorial titled “The Smart Path for the Shale Gas Revolution.” In March of this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appointed a group of energy and environmental experts to study the issue. Mr. Krupp is a member of that committee and speaks about the industry’s credibility problem. In 2000 shale gas accounted for 1% of our natural gas supply. Today it is about 25% and growing. While that should be good news from an environmental perspective, natural gas development has come under intense pressure from the public because of the impact on air and groundwater as well as fears about the management and disposal of wastewater (million gallons each well). The carbon advantage is also being questioned.
This panel investigated and deliberated for 90 days. Both supporters who told how the gas had provided an economic lifeline and people for whom this industry had made life a nightmare were heard. One woman was forced to leave her farm and was living out of her car because her son had become increasingly ill since the drilling started.
Mr. Krupp goes on to say that the industry must disclose the chemicals used to fracture shale and provide data on methane leaks. The report further calls for new standards for well construction and wastewater management. There must be baseline data on water quality, disclosure of the composition of drilling wastewater, and careful measurement of air emissions. The report also calls for the natural gas industry to create a national organization with external stakeholders dedicated to best practices. He also says we must all agree that “everyone–no matter where they live–has a right to clean air and clean water.”
Let’s hope this panel follows through.