Marcellus Shale
5:01 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

New Organization Will Independently Certify Shale Companies for Pollution Standards

A new Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization has been created to independently certify companies that develop shale natural gas based on their adherence to 15 pollution control standards.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was created with funding and input from southwestern Pennsylvania foundations, gas companies and environmental groups.

"Unusual bedfellows in this day and age, to be sure," said Robert Vagt, president of the Heinz Endowments.

Other founding members include the William Penn Foundation, Chevron, CONSOL Energy, EQT Corp., Royal Dutch Shell and five environmental groups.

The standards for certification, created over the past two years, are designed to reduce pollution of air and water resources.

Conrad Schneider of the Clean Air Task Force said the certification process is a step in the right direction, but not the ultimate goal.

"Voluntary measures that lead to certification for some companies are no substitute for protective regulations," Schneider said.

The gas companies listed above have agreed to be independently certified, and CSSD organizers said they hope all companies drilling for gas in the Marcellus and Utica Shales would sign on as well.

Water Protection Standards:

  • A moratorium on surface disposal of natural gas drilling wastewater
  • A minimum water recycling standard of 90 percent
  • Closed-loop drilling at well-heads; no "pits" of fracking fluid
  • Double-lined storage tanks with leak-detection technology
  • Pre- and post-drilling groundwater monitoring
  • Public disclosure of fracking fluid elements; ban on diesel in fluid
  • Policies to minimize risks of fracking fluid spills
  • A review of subsurface geology, including risk analysis

Air Protection Standards:

  • "Green completion" anti-leak measures must be taken by 2014
  • If not "green-completed," 90 percent destruction standard for flaring of emissions
  • Emission standards for NOx, particulate matter from pumping engines
  • Emission standards for compressor engines
  • Limits to volatile organic compound emissions from storage tanks
  • Greenhouse gas emission standards
  • Emission standards for on-road trucks