Shale gas subcommittee says states regulate effectively

State regulators effectively regulate the oil and gas industry, members of a shale gas subcommittee told the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during an Oct. 4 hearing in which senators questioned subcommittee members on the need for federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing.

Earlier this year, US Sec. of Energy Steven Chu formed the Shale Gas Subcommittee (SGS) to make recommendations regarding the safety and environmental performance of shale gas production. The subcommittee reports to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB).

SGS plans to issue its 180-day report to SEAB in about 6 weeks, committee members said. The upcoming report will detail what progress has been made on 20 recommendations the subcommittee made in its 90-day report released in August, said Daniel Yergin, subcommittee member and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (OGJ Online, Aug. 11, 2011).

SGS’s 90-day report recommended improved communication among state and federal regulators. The report also recommended that producers disclose ingredients in hydraulic fracing fluid.

The seven-member subcommittee’s recommendations seek to protect air and water quality associated with shale gas development and production.

Public concern and debate about shale gas has grown with expanding US shale gas production. Possible pollution of drinking water from methane and chemicals used in fracturing stimulation is a key concern. Other concerns involve possible air pollution and community disruptions, such as increased truck traffic associated with shale gas exploration and production.

State vs. federal regs

“I think there is a gap in perception,” by the public regarding existing regulations by many states on oil and gas drilling and production, Yergin said. “I think there is a very strong [state regulatory] fabric.”

Producing states’ governments have long-established experience regulating the oil and gas industry, Yergin said when senators asked him how the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management might regulate shale plays.

“States also are much closer to the community than the federal government,” Yergin said, noting regional geology means drilling regulations, fracturing regulations, and best practices are different in Pennsylvania than in Texas.

On Oct. 3, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett outlined his proposed Marcellus shale oversight program, and many of his proposed policies stemmed from the state’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission report, which he received in late July.

Corbett called for increased well setbacks from private water wells and public water systems.

Stephan Holditch, chairman of Texas A&M University Petroleum Engineering Department, said the Texas Railroad Commission “does a very good job” in regulating drilling and issuing drilling permits.

“Historic oil-producing states all believe they do a good job of regulating oil and gas,” Holditch said. “I see no reason to challenge that.”

Kathleen McGinty, senior vice-president of Weston Solutions Inc., said the subcommittee recommends continuous improvement by all stakeholders, including industry and regulators, to better protect the quality of water and air.

McGinty is former chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Bill Clinton and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

State regulators successfully regulate shale gas development and production, which is an industrial activity, said McGinty. “We don’t recommend that a new entity needs to do it…. We didn’t come up with any conclusion that the deck chairs need to be shuffled around.”

She noted that the state governments of Wyoming and Colorado have made “significant progress” in protecting air quality associated with exploration, drilling, and production efforts.

Mark Zoback, Stanford University geophysics professor, said the subcommittee identified actions to reassure the public regarding the safety of shale development, particularly the safety of chemical used in fracing fluids.

The subcommittee was not authorized to say what level government should regulate shale development, Zoback said. He noted that fracing receives the most public attention, yet leaks and spills come from well blowouts or from breached wastewater containment areas rather than from frac jobs.

“There are significant environmental impacts to shale development, but none of them have anything to do with hydraulic fracturing,” Zoback said.

Implement best practices

The subcommittee recommended creation of a shale gas industry production organization dedicated to continuous improvement of best practices. It also recommended the federal government provide financial support for unconventional research and development efforts.

Specifically, the subcommittee said two organizations can help improve the availability of shale gas information for the general public.

These organizations are the existing not-for-profit State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation, known as STRONGER, and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC).

STRONGER is set up to provide peer review of state regulatory activities. The peer reviews are conducted by a panel of state regulators, industry representatives, and environmental organization representatives with respect to the processes and policies of the state under review.

The US Department of Energy, EPA, and the American Petroleum Institute have supported STRONGER, the subcommittee’s 90-day report said.

GWPC has a project to expand a risk-based data management system, which allows states to exchange information about fracing operations.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

Related Articles

US Forest Service takes no stance on fracturing in national forest

12/12/2014

The US Forest Service has dropped a proposal that would have banned hydraulic fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.

Southwestern makes $5.4 billion bet on Marcellus

12/12/2014 Southwestern Energy Co. is purchasing Appalachian assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. in a deal that more than doubles its leasehold in the Marcell...

Study links methane contamination in water wells to poor well construction-not fracing-in Marcellus

12/12/2014 A new study found that fugitive gas contamination at eight clusters of water wells in the Marcellus and Barnett shale regions might be linked to we...

Watching Government: Did Maryland go too far?

12/08/2014 Maryland finally proposed a strategy to regulate unconventional natural gas exploration and production on Nov. 25. The question quickly moved from ...

US proved oil, gas reserves continue to climb

12/04/2014 US proved reserves of oil and natural gas have increased by 9% and 10%, respectively, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The 3....

Southwestern continues Marcellus expansion

12/03/2014 Southwestern Energy Co., Houston, has signed an agreement to purchase oil and gas assets, including 46,700 net acres, in northeast Pennsylvania fro...

Outgoing Maryland governor moving ahead on fracing regulations

12/02/2014 Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to propose regulations that would allow hydraulic fracturing in western Maryland provided that natural gas comp...

ANGA president calls for sharper focus on gas transportation issues

11/17/2014 America’s Natural Gas Alliance Pres. Martin J. Durbin called for a stronger focus on transportation as he outlined issues that the US gas industry ...

Bear Head LNG applies for NEB export license

11/07/2014 Bear Head LNG Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd. (LNGL), filed an application with Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB)...

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected