Why EDF Is Working On Natural Gas

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is often called upon by those opposed to natural gas development to support a ban or moratorium on drilling.  They argue that fighting for tough regulations, as EDF is doing, helps ensure that natural gas development will take place.  Some of our friends in the environmental community have questioned why we are working on natural gas at all.  They suggest that we should simply oppose natural gas development, and focus solely on championing energy efficiency and renewables.  We understand these concerns, and respect the people who share them.  And for that reason, we want to be as clear as we can be as to why EDF is so deeply involved in championing strong regulation of natural gas.

Our view on natural gas is shaped by three basic facts.  First, hydraulic fracturing is already a common practice in the oil and gas industry.  Over 90 percent of new onshore oil and gas development taking place in the United States today involves some form of hydraulic fracturing, and shale gas accounts for a rapidly increasing percentage of total natural gas production—from 16% in 2009 to more than 30% today.  In short, hydraulic fracturing is not going away any time soon.

Second, this fight is about much more than the role that natural gas may play in the future of electricity supply in the United States.  Natural gas is currently playing an important role in driving out old coal plants, and we are glad to see these coal plants go.  On balance, we think substituting natural gas for coal can provide net environmental value, including a lower greenhouse gas footprint.  We are involved in an ambitious study to measure methane leakage across the value chain, and we’re advocating for leak reduction in order to maximize natural gas’ potential carbon benefit.  We share the community’s concern that we not lose sight of the importance of energy efficiency and renewables, and are working hard to see that these options become preferred alternatives to natural gas over time. 

But even if we were able to eliminate demand for natural gas-fired electricity, our economy would still depend heavily on this resource.  Roughly two-thirds of natural gas produced in the U.S. is used as a feedstock for chemicals, pharmaceuticals and fertilizer, and for direct heating and cooling.  Natural gas is entrenched in our economy, and championing renewables and energy efficiency alone is not enough to address the environmental impacts associated with producing it.

Third, current natural gas production practices impose unacceptable impacts on air, water, landscapes and communities.  These impacts include exposure to toxic chemicals and potential groundwater contamination (due to faulty well construction or unsafe disposal of drilling wastewater), harmful local and regional air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions from unnecessary fugitive methane emissions and negative effects on communities and ecosystems. Whatever economic and environmental benefits natural gas may provide should never take precedence over or compromise the public’s right to clean water and clean air.

Our analysis has led us to conclude that there are many ways to eliminate hazards and reduce risks from hydraulic fracturing and related ‘unconventional’ oil and gas production practices.  Strong rules that require these steps to be taken are needed, backed up by effective oversight and enforcement with the necessary financial and human resources to make these efforts real. 

We also believe there are certain places where natural gas development should never be allowed, and we fully support the rights of local communities to regulate when and where this intensive industrial activity may take place, much as they would any other commercial or industrial activity in their community.  In states like New York, which have little or no experience in regulating modern oil and gas development, we believe it is important to take the time needed to develop strong regulations with the resources necessary to implement and enforce them before commercial-scale development should be allowed.

Since the details of the New York State natural gas plan have not yet been released, EDF has not taken a position on whether New York is ready to regulate hydraulic fracturing properly.  Among the many things we will be looking for is how deeply the plan honors the principle of local self-determination.  When the plan is made public, our experts will study it and we will make a judgment as to whether the new rulemaking does enough to protect public health, communities and ecosystems.  Only then will we be able to reply to those who have urged us to join calls for a continued New York State moratorium.

Demand for natural gas is not going away, and neither is hydraulic fracturing.  We must be clear-eyed about this, and fight to protect public health and the environment from unacceptable impacts.  We must also work hard to put policies in place that ensure that natural gas serves as an enabler of renewable power generation, not an impediment to it.  We fear that those who oppose all natural gas production everywhere are, in effect, making it harder for the U.S. economy to wean itself from dirty coal.

Natural gas production can never be made entirely safe; like any intensive industrial activity, it involves risks. But having studied the issue closely, we are convinced that if tough rules, oversight and penalties for noncompliance are put in place, these risks become manageable.

Calling for a ban is simply not enough.  Just as we respect those who choose to advocate for a moratorium, we invite our allies to join us in the battle to enact strong rules that protect our air, water, landscapes and communities.  The stakes are high and the opposition is stiff, but we can and will succeed.

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  1. Deb
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I respectfully disagree with you. Perhaps if it were your body that had to go through sleepless nights and your well water that you are afraid to drink, you would think differently. Now, put your home right in the middle of all this and remember it’s your only investment and the only thing you have in this life and now (since the gas companies came), it’s not worth anything. Can’t give it away, let alone sell it. This is doing more harm than you acknowledge.

    • Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      If EDF were really interested, then they’d respond to these suggestions & talk to the industry on my behlaf as I get no responses from them on these topics….We have 60 padsites in our 99sq mile town and these requests won’t cover public protections on the huge buildout and the associated human errors or accidents (we had a drill spill inour drinking water supply lake)….Frackers need to use electric rigs, frackers need NOT frack until they invent technology to keep their toxic silica dust on the padsite-those pathetic pillow case looking socks aren’t getting the job done….and they need to use scrubbers on the open hatch flowback tanks during topflow. And we shouldn’t have to wait 2.5 years for EPA mandated Green Completions. Frackers need to have the pipeline in place FIRST before fracturing so that flowback doesn’t sit in the ground for months festering a man-made hydrogen sulfide of stale water flowback. Frackers need to be set back away from people…one fracking mile for starters. But most of all if they can’t guarantee that the casings will last on the majority of them and the injections wells won’t migrate their horrid contents…then frackers need to spend their time & money on renewables. Sing with me now…OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUELS-MAKES A FEW RICH AND THE REST OF US FOOLS!

      • Posted September 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Deb and Kim, Eric Pooley from EDF here. We would never minimize the damage that natural gas development can do — we have seen it with our own eyes. That’s why we need tough regulations, enforcement and penalties. And as Mark says above, we fully support the rights of local communities to regulate this activity and we absolutely believe there are places where natural gas development should never be allowed. We are not ‘pro-gas.’ We are pro-safety and pro-health. As you know natural gas is being developed whether any of us likes it or not. We have no choice but to fight for strong regulations in order to protect public health, communities and the environment.

        • Joanne Fiorito
          Posted September 19, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Well Eric, as I see it, EDF’s efforts JUST AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH…..

          let me know when reality kicks in, eh…..’til then know this:

          You people are nothing more than enablers of ECO-GENOCIDE…….



          do let me know when the druggies aren’t working for the industry….

          and when the casings start failing and we all know they will, what good will your regulations be then……we call them the O&G industry’s IEDs underground…..tic tic tic, BOOM

  2. Davies Nagel
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    “…if tough rules, oversight and penalties for noncompliance are put in place…”


    I wish the EDF good luck with this effort. That would be very nice indeed but, with respect to the oil and gas industries, has it ever happened? The reality seems to be for the industry and the politicians funded by these industries to find areas with high unemployment and low economic strength (sacrifice zones) and turn them into the “intensive industrial activity” zones you mention but, without the safety nets you speak of being in place. This has happened over and over again throughout the world (just Google “sacrifice zones” and you will then begin to understand) resulting in the degradation of the health and wellness of the people, as well as the environment, of that sacrifice zone.

    Until the money conduit between this industry and the politicians dries up (and good luck with that ever happening) most of us in New York State will continue to work for a ban on this unconventional hydraulic fracturing. The reality is that it is our only choice.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      Davies –

      You have every right to be skeptical. Effective regulation and enforcement is not easily achieved or maintained. As I indicated in my post, the jury is out on whether NY will be able to achieve and maintain effective regulation and enforcement. Without your skepticism and activism, the answer to the question of whether NY will ever implement a robust and effective regulatory program will almost certainly be “no.”

  3. Posted September 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Mark, for your explanation of EDF policy on fracking. But you’ve got several matters out of kilter:

    • “In short, hydraulic fracturing is not going away any time soon.” Chesapeake and many other indie drillers are quietly trying to off-load, on the cheap, leases and even drilled properties in various shale plays. Bankers who funded earlier drilling are pulling back. Why? Because shale plays don’t have legs. The drillers get a few sweet spot wells that do very well indeed, but fall off much more rapidly than expected. And they get lots of dry holes. A surprising fraction of holes are dry. Drillers are on a treadmill, trying to define ever more financial assets by drilling holes (productive or not), to pay for the production losses they’ve already suffered. That explains all the perfervid drilling at a time the natural gas price is tanking.

    • “…and we’re advocating for leak reduction in order to maximize natural gas’ potential carbon benefit.” This flies in the face of the fact that the industry already knows they are unable to get this done. Shlumberger, for instance, authored a presentation to the industry, alarmed that all well casing deteriorates over time, that all casing cement fails within a decade or two, and that gas is leaking to the surface _outside_ the well bore, despite careful wells seals. But the frackers have persisted in their advertising (but not in their filings with the SEC) that they do a good, clean, safe job of it. The industry isn’t interested in ‘Best Practices,’ or even the most efficient practice. They are interested in the bottom line. (see above).

    • “In states like New York, which have little or no experience in regulating modern oil and gas development, we believe it is important to take the time needed to develop strong regulations with the resources necessary to implement and enforce them before commercial-scale development should be allowed.” New York has been regulating conventional gas drilling since the late 1800s. The DEC has plenty of experience, such as it is. They have no idea where abandoned conventional wells are, they do not monitor known capped wells, and thus have no idea of how much leakage conventional wells are contributing to global warming. With staff reductions hitting the DEC every few years, imagine what they would do to ‘regulate’ gas emissions in an even modest shale gas play in New York. The Division of Mineral Resources (DNR) is a part of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Its charter is to maximize the economic benefit of natural resources exploitation. The DNR is not an environmental organization. Reforming the DEC to give it a role independent of the interests of extractive industry would be next to impossible.

    • “Natural gas production can never be made entirely safe; like any intensive industrial activity, it involves risks. But having studied the issue closely, we are convinced that if tough rules, oversight and penalties for noncompliance are put in place, these risks become manageable.” This ‘risks become manageable’ never seems to apply all the way down to the situation of the people living next to the fracking wells, the compressor stations, the pipelines, the 24/7 truck traffic on their back-country lanes, the perpetuity of their lease terms (sometimes very abusive). Industrializing the highly settled American rural landscape is not a management problem. It is a road to travesty and misery. Advocating that regulations can make fracking’s risks acceptably ‘manageable’ is akin to advising a woman to put up with a dangerous man with an abusive history because she can always call a cop if it gets too bad.

    • “Demand for natural gas is not going away, and neither is hydraulic fracturing. We must be clear-eyed about this, and fight to protect public health and the environment from unacceptable impacts.” This begs the question, “Who is responsible for energy policy?” Homeowners? Villages and towns? Farmers? Do we as American citizens have at our fingertips the levers of power that deliver heating oil rather than coal? Hydro-electric rather than gas-fired electricity? Solar panel and other green energy sources rather than natural gas? Manifestly not! Energy policy is made at the need industrialists whose reach extends to the highest office in the land (c.f, the so-called Halliburton Loophole” engineered into the 2005 Energy Policy Act by the connivance of Vice President Dick Cheney). This is what we need to be clear-eyed about. Americans are not demanding natural gas, any more than we demand propane-fueled cars (plentiful in Europe) rather than buy gasoline. We as citizens are in poor standing to demand anything of the oil and gas industry. We have been mild consumers of whatever form of energy would make this rapacious crowd of extractive industry magnates the most profit. And sky high-profit it has been indeed, replete with corporate corporate welfare programs.

    Americans have no obligation to accept that “demand for natural gas demand is not going away.” It will go away when Chesapeake, Shell, Cabot, Exxon/Mobil and their ilk can’t make money at it. Or when it is criminalized out of existence by withdrawal of the Halliburton Loophole and a dozen other exemptions to clean air, soil, water and community safety regulations that have been lobbied into state and federal law by and for the fracking industry.

    We do not have to sit mildly by and accept that our fate is to be fracked.

  4. Lisa Wright
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    To be “clear eyed”, Bloomberg’s $6 million would seem to provide a healthy incentive to EDF’s appetite to find “market-based solutions” for the shale-gas revolution. He may as well have given the money directly to the gas industry, not an environmentalist organization committed to ” preserve the natural systems on which all life depends.”

  5. Elizabeth Carson
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Please stop claiming to be an environmental organization. It’s infuriating and disingenuous. Perhaps those of us working to save our air, land, and water wouldn’t have to fight so hard if it we weren’t constantly being contradicted by EDF.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Elizabeth –

      Neither of us would have to fight so hard if corporate CEOs would own up to their environmental responsibilities. Maybe some day, in a more perfect world, they will. Until then, we come to work everyday and fight for strong regulation and enforcement.

  6. Posted September 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Tough call: being an environmental advocacy non-profit means it’s okay to take funds from polluters? Hmm, gelt that assuages guilt, buys silence and, therefore, shares complicity with the polluter? Hey, what a bargain. I know; corporate responsibility is a noble gesture, but Sierra Club learned the hard way.

    Perhaps some of us have forgotten this? See Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052302164.html , specifically: the ninth and tenth paragraphs from the end of this article,
    ” The Environmental Defense Fund, which has a policy of not accepting corporate donations, joined with BP, Shell International and other major corporations to form the Partnership for Climate Action, which promotes “market-based mechanisms” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    And about 20 energy and environmental groups, including the Conservancy, the Sierra Club and Audubon, joined with BP Wind Energy to form the American Wind and Wildlife Institute, which works to protect wildlife through “responsible” development of wind farms. ” (c) © 1996-2012 The Washington Post

    • Mica Odom
      Posted September 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for expressing your concerns Bleuz00m. EDF prides ourselves on our independence. We did not take any money for the United States Partnership for Climate Action (USCAP). We participated in a jointly-funded project in which EDF paid a share of the total expenses of the project, as did every other participant – company or nonprofit. Our corporate donations policy is extremely extensive and prohibits donations from any organization that has any interest in our work, good or bad. You can read more on our policy here: http://www.edf.org/approach/partnerships/corporate-donation-policy.

  7. Michael Gorr
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who has studied this issue knows that fracking absolutely CANNOT be done safely or responsibly. If the shale gas industry were required to internalize even a small fraction of its externalities (negative effects on water, air, land, quality of life and climate change) it would be completely uneconomical. Hell, they can’t turn a profit on the sale of their product even under present conditions in which they are given the green light to dump nearly ALL of their production costs on the rest of us. EDF cannot possibly be unaware of this, which is why I now regard them as an enemy rather than an ally in our struggle. The only responsible position is one which favors a total ban on (at least) all horizontal hydrofracking in any environment where human beings live.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Michael –

      I agree with you that the oil and gas industry should be required to internalize all of their environmental externalities, which is why EDF is working so hard to get strong regulations and enforcement in place. We do not believe that natural gas production should come at the expense of public health or the environment.

  8. katherine m. burns
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    I am appalled that you call yourself an environmental organization. Fracking cannot be made safe. Period. Who is EDF to pretend that it can be? If fracking comes to New York, it will poison water, air, land, animals, and people. It will destroy roads, trees, agriculture, outdoor recreation, peace, beauty, and rural culture. It will injure those of us who live in the way of the gas companies. Nothing could ever compensate for the losses we will suffer, not that the gas companies would ever dream of trying to compensate us. In fact, they have a strong record of fighting NOT to compensate people for the damages they cause. These are the entities you wish to unleash on us? Shame on you, EDF. Those of us who fight fracking and the gas companies, will now also fight you.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Katherine –

      New York has long history of oil and gas production, dating back to the earliest days commercial oil and gas development, and as part of that history, hydraulic fracturing is not new to the state. What is new is how hydraulic fracturing can be coupled with horizontal drilling to increase the reach of each well into the hydrocarbon rich shale. You are right to be worried about how this new technology could increase the scale of oil and gas development in New York. Strong regulation and enforcement is essential to protecting public health and the environment. This is true for every industrial activity that takes place in New York, and it is be true with high volume hydraulic fracturing. While we are uncertain what NY will do, EDF will fight for strong regulation and enforcement at every turn.

  9. Posted September 12, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    As a former employee at EDF, I suppose I am not surprised by their position, but I remain deeply disappointed by their continuing stance. We live in the 21st Century, and global warming is an increasingly urgent issue. We simply must work aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and particularly emissions of methane. Natural gas generally (and shale gas in particular) is very high in methane emissions, making it a terrible fuel (as my research with Tony Ingraffea, Renee Santoro, and others has demonstrated). And that is aside from the local air and water pollution, and the disruption of communities. EDF is extremely naive to believe these issues can all be satisfactorily managed: decades of trying to get the industry to be more honest and responsible have convinced me that they have no interest in issues beyond their own bottom line. Further, the EDF group seems increasingly out of touch with the rapidly developing body of science on pollution from shale gas. I encourage them to reach out and talk with independent experts in academia, and not just their industry contacts.

    We have the technologies to move completely away from all fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — and instead get our energy from renewable sources. Why does EDF continue to show so little interest in pursuing this truly green path?

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Bob –

      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

      As you well know, market forces are currently driving the switch from coal to natural gas (and we do like getting rid of coal!) and given that reality, we seek to minimize the public health and environmental impacts associated with unconventional natural gas development and maximize potential environmental benefits where they exist. Elsewhere in this series of responses, I talk about the importance of energy efficeincy and renewables, so I won’t repeat myself here.

      As to methane, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about fugitive methane emissions and, as you know, EDF is working on this. Our chief scientist – Steve Hamburg – has met with you in the past, and, just this past week presented at the National Research Council workshop on natural gas. We are directly collaborating with many of the best scientists working on methane, including Bob Harriss, to name just one. Hopefully you are also familiar Ramon Alvarez and the work he is doing on the topic in partnership with Steve, Bob, and others? Here’s a link to his blog posts. http://www.edf.org/people/ramon-alvarez.

      • Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        This is ridiculous. EDF continues to write and act “as if” climate change is not an urgent, driving reality and “as if” it’s fine for us all to just wait around for “market forces” to… what? wake up and smell the severe weather events and suddenly “get it”? HEY EDF, “market forces” drove slavery too. Did the abolitionists get chided for being in too much of a rush to get rid of slavery? You bet they did. “Not now,” the economy of the South can’t take it. “Not now,” the workforce in the North and midwest doesn’t want the competition. “Not now,” — haven’t we heard that before? The suffragists heard it. The Civil Rights movement heard it. And you know what they did with that message? They ignored it, because they had integrity. They knew the time is now for human rights. Just as we know now it’s time to move to clean renewable energy and efficiency, not while facilitating shale gas development but instead of facilitating shale gas development.

        Climate change is already here, and even with “best management practices” and full regulation, shale gas development pours more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than coal, in the twenty year time frame. So you try to celebrate some shale gas replacing some coal (ignoring the increasing amount of shale gas extracted to be sent overseas as LNG exports… try rationalizing that in terms of climate!), trying to position yourselves as the good guys with regard to climate. You speculate that “maybe if it were eventually really regulated it would be less atrocious,” using a razor-thin and bankrupt rationale for continuing to make it appear in the present “as if” shale gas is good for climate. Just like the industry, you ignore full life-cycle impacts. Look at the reality of how effectively shale gas is pushing AGAINST wind and solar development right now. That’s a real, calculable impact, too. The role of environmental organizations is not to rationalize, and even encourage, market forces but to learn how to tell the time. The time for transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy is now. There is no meantime. By the time your scientists figure this out, twenty more years will be gone.

        If you even said you were fighting for regulations while urging the immediate phase-out of shale gas development, that would be one thing. But to write, speak and act “as if” regulations are or could be enough is to feed the fatalistic belief that actually we the people cannot fight for our future. We can, we are, and we will — with or without you.

  10. Robert Finne
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    “Why EDF Is Working On Natural Gas”

    There’s something not quite right about that headline….

    Why EDF Is Working FOR Natural Ga$

    There, fixed it!

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Robert –

      Thanks for your suggestion on how we market our work. Unfortunately, its not accurate, and the use of the $ sign in natural gas is a little too hip hop for us. But thanks any way.

  11. Lisa Wright
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Bedtime reading for the “Climate Ignorati.”

  12. Lisa Wright
    Posted September 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    David Suzuki says
    What’s the Fracking Problem with Natural Gas?

    “Some people, mostly from the fossil fuel industry, have argued that natural gas could be a “bridging” fuel while we work on expanding renewable energy development and capacity, by providing a source of energy with fewer greenhouse gas emissions when burned than coal and oil.

    But numerous studies, including one by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute, have found this theory to be extremely problematic. To begin, leaks of natural gas—itself a powerful greenhouse gas—and the methane that is often buried with it, contribute to global warming. Burning natural gas and the industrial activity required to extract and transport it also contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions. As McKibben notes, the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research concluded that switching to natural gas “would do little to help solve the climate problem.”

    More than anything, continued and increasing investment in natural gas extraction and infrastructure will slow investment in, and transition to, renewable energy.”

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Lisa –

      There is no question that energy efficiency and renewable energy are critical to our energy future, and elsewhere on our website you can learn about the many ways we are working to advance both efficiency and renewables. Our pioneering work in getting a renewable energy standard enacted in Texas – the heart of the oil and gas industry in the United States – continues to inform our advoacy as we fight for renewable energy across the country.

      There is also no question that methane – the primary constituent within natural gas – is itself a powerful greenhouse gas, and that fugitive emissions at well sites, and along the pipelines and distribution systems that deliver natural gas to factories, buildings, and homes add up to wholly unnecessary and unacceptable impacts to our climate. Venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas must be monitored and they must be stopped. This is a critical part of our work.

      But the bottomline is this. For as long as natural gas remains part of our nation’s energy mix, we have an obligation to ensure that public health and the environment are not compromised for the sake of its production. And this commitment to public health and the environment is at the core of our work.

      • lisa wright
        Posted September 17, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink



        Wenonah Hauter makes many strong points, as does David Suzuki in the post cited above; I’m pasting hte first graf below.



        Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

        Here’s a memo to the technocrats, pundits, environmental organizations and foundations that believe corporate collaborations and market-based solutions are the key to solving the critical environmental problems facing us. Why are you so afraid of fighting for what we really want—a future based on renewable energy and energy efficiency?

  13. Posted September 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Here’s what one of the famed ‘Seneca Three” had to say about you, EDF…


  14. Dan Lincoln
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    So EDF is saying that the environmental and health damage from the shale gas industry is not ok, but it doesn’t matter, it just has to be better than coal. People, on the other hand, are comparing life with and without the shale gas industry in their community, or back yard, or drinking well. Two different discussions.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Dan –

      I apologize if my post wasn’t clear enough. Just because coal is awful doesn’t mean that natural gas gets to be terrible. The production of natural gas – for any purpose – should not be allowed to compromise public health or the environment. Your point about the gas industry in people’s backyards is an important one, and it is why I stress the importance of upholding the traditional rights of local communities to regulate this activity as they would any other commerical or industrial activity seeking the right to locate within their borders.

  15. David S. Miller
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Incredible that EDF doesn’t understand how fracking exasperates the climate crisis. And then you state, “In short, hydraulic fracturing is not going away any time soon” as way to justify supporting it. Well, I’ll tell you, coal fired power plants aren’t going away anytime soon, either, but you seem to oppose those. Fracking for natural gas is just plain destructive, both for the climate, the ground water and the local environment. Just because you can’t seem to stop it doesn’t mean you have to support it. I’m American living in Denmark, where over 20% of the electricity is derived from wind power. It will be a lot more as the power companies build more wind farms, which they are in the process of doing so. I understand that you just received a $6 million donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Does that have anything about your decision to support fracking? C’mon, be honest.

  16. Cheryl Hopper
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Interesting, your coming out in support of fracking after receiving a donation from Bloomburg Philanthropies. Coincidence, or proof that your price is $6 million? I strongly suspect the latter, and I am completely disgusted. There is *solid proof* that fracking IS NOT SAFE and the dangers CANNOT be managed because incredibly toxic and environment-destroying pollution is an inherent, unavoidable part of the fracking process. The only thing you’re defending now is a fat wallet. Shame on you!

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      David & Cheryl –

      Our work on natural gas began over two years ago, and I invite you to peruse our website and this blog to get a sense for the type of work we have been doing and how long we’ve been at it. The Bloomberg grant is in recognition of the work we’ve been doing to date, not the cause of it.

  17. Rebecca Casstevens
    Posted September 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    shame on EDF for such lame-brained defense of an inherently unacceptable practice. the home rule approach is tearing communities apart (there is no protocol to ensure legitimacy of local decisions), and holds no promise of effectively preventing the toxicity which doesn’t stay in any one place. water is already in short supply, so how in the world can you justify sequestering huge amounts in the ground, forever we can only hope?! your brownstein, as well as the NRDC cop-out crew, on the NYS fracking advisory panel, provide the gas industry wth exactly the cover they want. how stupid do you EDF folks think we activists are?!? regulations, schmegulations — what a sham. our cheating DEC has colluded with the gas industry in drafting the SGEIS, and utterly ignored input from pre-eminent scholars who provide abundant evidence of inevitable grave harm from fracking under any circumstances. it is extremely disheartening that EDF has sold out. for shame.

    • Mark Brownstein
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      Rebecca –

      We agree that home rule, by itself, will not solve the problem, any more than we believe that state regulation, by itself, will solve the problem. Addressing the risks inherent in oil and gas production requires a combination of federal, state, and local regulatory and enforcement efforts. The problems we’ve seen with gas development elsewhere are not ‘inevitable’ and to think so is to buy into the argument that many in industry make that we simply have to choose between economic development and environmental protection. It remains to be seen whether NY will enact appropriate regulations and whether the Legislature will step forward with the appropriate funding to implement and enforce these regulations, but that is what we will fight for.

  18. Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I think EDF and the gas/oil industry should put the “horse before the cart”… instead of putting the “cart before the horse.”
    Put the regulations in place first; do the health and economic impact studies first; before using humans and communities as guinea pigs.

    Here in northeastern Ohio, we were promised studies and doctors’ reports by the industry; they stated publicly, on record, they had them proving this was safe. We requested the information, we have never received it. Letters
    have been written by elect ed officials to the Governor and ODNR and Batchelder, asking questions, pertinent questions of the safetyof slick water high volume industrialized shale drilling; answers have never been received.

    What does this say? Clear: it isn’t safe, has never been proven safe. Doesn’t it need to be proven safe first before
    being done?

    Why are import terminals being switched to EXPORT terminals as we speak? Where are the natural resources of this country going? Asian markets…. France banned this practice in their country, yet they are here in this country participating in this unsafe practice.

    The fact that EDF states that slick water high volume industrialized shale drilling is the same as the vertical drilling that has gone on for the past 45 plus years speaks volumes….
    Shale drilling, EDF…. do you even know what this is?

    Perhaps EDF should hire HydroQuest or Mid Hudson Geosciences to educate them.

    Of course, EDF shouldn’t have to worry about donations or funds coming from private citizens to continue operating… sounds like they are getting plenty of funding from the gas and oil industry.

    Sandra Bilek

  19. Lisa Tremaine
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Fracking is poisoning our water. That in and of itself should be enough to cause serious alarm. I am shocked and disappointed that EDF has come out in support of such a toxic and polluting form of energy. SUSTAINABILITY is the name of the future, not fossil fuels.

  20. Jill Wiener
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate that you are taking the time to answer the myriad of concerns regarding EDF’s support of fracked gas as piece of the America’s energy future.
    While i don not agree with the position that EDF has chosen to take in support of shale gas extraction, I also am concerned that you do not address the fact that the holy grail of the shale gas industry is to export. The United States is on the fast track to become an energy extraction colony. There are thirteen terminals that are either proposed to be built from scratch or converted from import to export. In April of this year, the first of these LNG terminals was approved, and it is expected to go online as early as 2015.

    The conversion (cooling) of fracked gas to LNG and shipping that gas overseas is incredibly energy-intensive. The shale gas extraction process and domestic transportation via leaking pipelines and compressor stations produces more than their fair share of greenhouse gasses.

    Exporting gas will increase fracking across the county leading to increased land disturbance, forest fragmentation, property seizure, water contamination, and the terminals will put ecologically sensitive costal areas at risk.

    Exporting fracked gas will also led to increased prices here at home. American manufacturers and end use consumers will feel the pinch of global gas pricing.

    So Mark, my question is, what is the policy position of EDF on exports?

    I am providing links to some reading material for you.

    http://bit.ly/Q4drWS Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Is Still Bad For The Climate — And A Very Poor Long-Term Investment By Joe Romm
    http://1.usa.gov/PsqtQK Drill Here, Sell There, Pay More, The Painful Price of Exporting Natural Gas House Democratic Committee on Natural Resources
    http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/fe/ Effect of Increased Natural Gas Exports on Domestic Energy Markets as requested by the Office of Fossil Energy EIA

  21. Posted September 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    EDF’s weakling compromise is a shot in the heart to true conservation organizations that are working so hard to make positive change in our environment. Since when is a thing as nasty and destructive as hydraulic fracturing acceptable because “it is already a common practice in the oil and gas industry.”? It seems that EDF is as easily bought as the corporate-slave politicians that have turned our government over to the gas, oil and coal industries. Shame on you, EDF. You have sold out and shown a complete lack of vision.

  22. Posted September 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Taking such a weak position as outlined in this article is the worst kind of environmentalism. But, without spouting the harsh criticisms this article invites I will merely ask for a response on two simple questions:
    1) Where does EDF stand on allowing oil and gas drilling on public lands?
    2) If “regulation, enforcement, and tough penalties” are all the American people should rely on how does EDF purport to do this in the face of the systematic deregulation of the oil and gas industry?

  23. CNG Guy
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow … where to start?

    First, Kudos to EDF for having the intellectual honesty to state the facts. And its true, best practices should be followed, improved and aggressively enforced. I am amazed at the fervor of these posts that are based more in emotion and much less in facts. As a resident in Ohio, I find a lot of these posts so emotional I have a hard time even formulating a response to address their close minded and extreme mindset. It makes me wonder how many of these posters have financial gains or losses at risk based on their positions which is one of the many things against which they rail.

    Second, folks are vilifying the energy industry but how many of us live off grid? Or live in a truly sustainable manner? Did you enjoy your hot shower this morning? Did you read a book last night or peruse the internet lately? How many of us used fossil based energy to do these tasks? I did. Would I like to use totally renewable energy to do so? You bet. But I have not been able to attain this quite yet. So instead of attacking an improved technology over coal or petroleum, get yourself right in the mirror first. Live off grid, then your emotional plea will be much louder! Are you saying its ok to devastate an environment half way around the world because you can’t see it? I hope not.

    One of your commenters stated they doubt that fossil natural gas is a viable bridge fuel? Germany has over 4,000 renewable BioNatural Gas facilities. Ohio has 7 operational, and 4 of them provide BioCNG for vehicle use. Ohio has another 31 permitted. BioCNG is to CNG as Biodiesel is to diesel. Yes, it is a better fuel than fossil CNG and we have to develop a market to allow the infrastructure to grow. This country has landfills and sewage treatment plants that are daily letting methane, a powerful GHG get into our atmosphere. These should all be retooled to capture this biomethane and harvested into energy. So yes, this is a very important aspect of the natural gas movement! And I find it personally dishonest and irresponsible for environmentalist to blatantly ignore or not educate themselves about the facts regarding the CURRENT status of BioCNG.

    Another commenter stated, “shale plays don’t have legs”. I can only guess you are not in the Utica/Marcellus/Huron shale gas area (yes I said Huron, there is a third, deeper shale play here in Ohio waiting its turn). The fiscal investments are not drying up but are expanding exponentially. Whole communities are being transformed and people can still safely drink the water! Communities are thriving and hospitals are not full of sick people nor are our farm animals dropping dead or mutating.

    Multiple impassioned pleas of your commenters declare facking CANNOT be done safely; fracking IS done safely every day all across America. Fracking can and does has issues when best practices are not followed, but so do sewage treatment plants or more germane, petroleum refineries. Being an Ohio resident, I still drink the water. To make absolute statements like that illustrate your emotional investment and lack of objectivity. Natural gas is a superior transportation fuel compared to diesel or gasoline, period! So are you two saying that business as usual that sterilizes the environment half way around the world is better than produce locally and consume locally and have our own responsibility for our own production and consumption and potential mess thereof?

    And since when are injection wells synonymous with fracking? There are numerous operations in Ohio that recycle frack water and do not inject it. Why are those operations being held up as best practices and highlighted? I’ve yet to hear a “fractavist” talk about fracking without injection wells. I beleive its because it dramatically reduces their argument about the “evils” of fracking if the water is recycled and reused.

    One commenter even stated EDF is out of touch because he does not like your science. EDF is not out of touch with science, they are choosing to consider the whole body of science and economic factors. Just because it is not the science you want them to believe doesn’t make them out of touch! And since when did seeking out academia put someone “in touch” with reality? I guess we have to agree to disagree!

    Being trained in natural resources in environmental science, I find the intellectual dishonesty of these emotional pleas to be very distasteful and applaud EDF for standing up for the fastest channel of progress – economic factors. I believe this path will get us all to a safer place and better industry practices much faster than the extreme divisiveness for which the “fractavists” have become known.

  24. CNG Guy
    Posted September 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    PS: According to http://www.dnr.state.oh.us : before the shale gas boom in Ohio, we had nearly 250,000 well drilled over the last 150 years. In the last 50 years, fracking has been a regular practice. Can anyone explain to me why has this practice suddenly become the evil that will destroy our environment? Wouldn’t it stand to reason all these environmental problems caused by fracking should have existed in Ohio as long as fracking has? This is simply not the case.

  25. Lisa Wright
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    This is NRDC “working on natural gas” the way environmentalists do it:

  26. Keenan Sira
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Mark and EDF should be commended for this bold statement. Reading the comments, it’s obvious that many people would stand in disbelief of what you wrote, as if you and EDF have become a traitor to the “cause.” As one who works directly with oil and gas development in the Rockies and as a biologist, one of my hats is to provide regulatory advice while encouraging and pushing industry decision-makers in the direction of better and cleaner fracking technologies. It’s not an overnight process and, as you say, natural gas is not going away. It’s naive to believe that the level of industrialization in this country can be miraculously transformed overnight…no change of that magnitude ever has.

    Yes, some in the business of using and conducting fracking have been disingenuous about the risks..and some people, we can acknowledge, have been hurt. That is not to say it’s okay if even one person has been harmed….but our consumption is not decreasing when people are buying 60, 70, 80 inch screen TVs to watch the game…heat their homes… we all know this. So, as you say, and have said at various conferences, the industry must be held accountable. It is not a Quixotic mission. On the contrary, industry is changing. There are many advocates within companies who know this, but not all producers are on board. To be sure, some still deny climate science. But I have faith that a younger generation will slowly change the technology.

    If there’s any question that there are not advocates for change within the natural gas exploration and production community, you need only go here to read this recent piece… http://howestreet.com/2012/09/finding-frackings-middle-ground/

    Once again, Mark and EFT, thanks for taking a pragmatic approach to push to help find a solution to a very real challenge we face in this country over energy and energy use.

  27. Kurt Heidinger
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday, EDF called for a donation. I said, “no.”

    Any “environmental group” that trades water supplies for a few years of flames must try harder to get the Koch brothers to subsidize them.

    Stop bothering me EDF.