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Gas Companies and Environmental Groups Hash Out Fracking Standards

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 4:55 AM

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Environmental groups and oil companies announced this week they've agreed to a broad set of standards for hydraulic fracturing. The voluntary standards are meant to apply to shale drilling throughout the Appalachian Basin that includes eastern Ohio. ideastream's Nick Castele reports.

Updated 9:50 p.m.

Participating in the agreement range from large energy companies such as Shell and Chevron to environmental groups like the Clean Air Task Force and Environmental Defense Fund.

They’ve agreed to 15 voluntary shale drilling standards some of which have been borrowed from state regulations already in effect.

They include containing drilling fluid in a closed loop system, developing ways to safely dispose of fracking wastewater and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development is overseeing the partnership. Interim director Andrew Place says companies meeting the standards will be certified, and that will give them standing when seeking prospective new wells. 

PLACE: “The mayor’s going to be asking you, ‘Are you certified?’ The landowner’s going to ask, ‘Are you certified?’ Local environmental leaders are going to ask you, ‘Are you certified when you come into our communities?’”

Place is also corporate director for energy and environmental policy for EQT, a participating gas company. The center is funded equally by philanthropic groups and energy companies, and will hire outside consultants to certify drillers as compliant.

But Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council in the Midwest says agreements aren’t good enough. He says what’s needed are laws.

HENDERSON: “We’re in a Wild West state with fracking in the United States of America today. And the idea that a series of well-intentioned, voluntary arrangements are adequate to the protection of the public health and safety is an illusion.”

The partnership’s impact in Ohio is still unclear. Chesapeake Energy, a major driller in the state, isn’t listed as part of the agreement, and couldn’t be reached for comment.

NPR’s Elizabeth Shogren has more on this story

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Energy, Shale

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