This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) put out the Open For Business sign today – a key milestone in this innovative effort to up the game on environmental protection in shale gas development. The question now is, will energy companies step up?
We hope so.
CSSD is an unprecedented collaboration – bringing together environmental groups, philanthropic organizations and energy companies to develop performance standards for reducing environmental impacts from shale gas production, and setting up a system so gas producers can have their operations audited and certified against those standards.
CSSD isn’t a substitute for effective regulation. Strong rules and robust oversight is a nonnegotiable bottom line. But we like the idea of upping the ante. Why not have a program that recognizes companies for going beyond the regulatory minimums and doing more to protect communities and the environment? These companies are tough competitors – so let’s make environmental performance part of what they compete on. Read More
Anyone younger than 30 may not understand what a skipping record sounds like; in their lives, listening to tunes has more often meant hitting a playlist on iTunes or streaming Pandora, than it has meant dusting off an old record. To us “old” folks who remember when clunky 8-track tapes were the height of portable music cool, today’s options are nothing less than astounding.
Believe it or not, I was thinking about this as I participated yesterday in a panel at the World Resource Institute in Washington, D.C. to discuss their new paper titled, “Cleaning the Air: Reducing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Natural Gas Systems.” Reviewing the report, and reflecting on EDF’s own work to understand and reduce methane and other air pollution, it’s clear a huge opportunity exists for technology to revolutionize air quality practices in the gas industry, just as it reengineered production and delivery of audio in the music industry. And the prospects are very bright that it will.
Champions of natural gas like to say that natural gas is a preferred fossil fuel alternative to coal and oil because it has less carbon content than either, and therefore, when burned, produces less carbon dioxide, which is the a primary cause of global warming. This is true.
But what is often not said is that natural gas is primarily made up of methane, which itself is a powerful greenhouse gas pollutant, many times more powerful than carbon dioxide, particularly when methane is first released into the atmosphere. Even small leaks at the wellhead or along the infrastructure used to process and transport the gas to our power plants, homes and businesses can undo much of the greenhouse gas benefits we think we are getting when we substitute natural gas for coal or petroleum sources. Read More
This commentary was originally posted on our EDF Voices blog.
Worthy public policy initiatives get announced every day of the week, and reporters mostly greet them with a shrug. But last week’s announcement of a new center designed to set standards for shale gas development in the Appalachian Basin triggered a wave of media attention.
The Washington Post called the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), “a heartening breakthrough in the war over fracking.” And the Associated Press wrote: “Some of the nation's biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for fracking in the Northeast….”
I agree that this is a big deal, and not just because EDF played an important role in the two years of negotiation that led to the formation of this group. It’s a rare to see environmentalists and some of the nation's biggest energy companies working together to improve the safety of natural gas operations. This coalition is a step in the right direction to better protect the quality of life for people living among the gas fields.
But, I also need to make a few points clear.
First, the standards put forth by CSSD are no substitute for strong regulation and enforcement. Voluntary efforts by industry leaders help distinguish the best from the rest and raise the bar for all, but the only path to full protection of our air, water, and health is regulation and enforcement that apply to all. Read More