A group of energy companies, philanthropic foundations and environmental groups have formed a new organization providing shale gas producers with performance standards certification for shale development.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) recently announced 15 initial performance standards designed to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of the Appalachian Basin’s abundant shale gas resources. These standards will form the foundation of the CSSD’s independent, third-party certification process.
In addition to energy giants Chevron and Shell, the CSSD’s founding participants include Clean Air Task Force, EDF, Consol Energy, EQT Corporation, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Heinz Endowment, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the William Penn Foundation.
“Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly,” said Bruce Niemeyer, President of Chevron Appalachia. “Throughout the development of CSSD, the collaborative effort of environmental organizations, foundations and energy companies has been the key to achieving consensus on regional performance standards.”
Shale gas is extracted through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” where companies inject water laced with chemicals deep into the ground to split open rock formations to get the gas to flow faster.
Many energy companies, including Chevron, claim fully exploiting the U.S. natural gas supply could lead to energy independence, grow the economy and create millions of jobs. Natural gas also is one of the cleanest-burning fuels and comparatively more eco-friendly than oil or coal.
Despite these economic advantages, shareholders and environmentalists alike have expressed concern over the negative ecological effects attributed to fracking, chiefly groundwater contamination. Fracking operations also run the risk of releasing “fugitive emissions” such as methane, which the EPA says has a 20 times greater impact on global warming than carbon dioxide.
“While the potential economic and environmental benefits of shale gas are substantial, the public expects transparency, accountability and a fundamental commitment to environmental safety and the protection of human health from the companies operating through the region,” said Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury and a member of CSSD’s Board of Directors. “CSSD is a sound step toward assuring the public that shale development is being done to the requisite standards of excellence.”