FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 26, 2013
Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County, PA
The Pittsburgh based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), is a public relations tool, created by the biggest oil and gas companies in the world, such as Royal Dutch Shell Chevron, EQT, and Consol Energy. Their goal is to help sugar coat a method of natural gas extraction called fracking. Public perception of this technique has suffered because of the many problems caused. The driller’s cynical intentions are clear in their announcement promoting the coalition, which is intended to ‘hasten the expansion and acceptance of fracking. “Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing”, said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.
To call the CSSD a partnership between environmental groups and the shale gas and oil industry is misleading at best and a convenient lie at worst.
The Clean Air Task Force, one of the “environmental partners” in this coalition, was formed mainly to help reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired electric plants. Their effort is hypocritical and misguided in light of recent scientific studies indicating that methane, (natural gas), is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Natural gas leakage from drilling to delivery (extraction, flaring, compression and transportation) is so high that some consider it worse than coal. Sierra club campaign director, Deb Nardone says,” If we have any chance of avoiding climate disaster, the majority of natural gas must stay in the ground.”
Real environmental groups, along with the unwilling community stakeholders lives have been negatively impacted by this gas drilling, seriously question whether this partnership will create any meaningful change from the industry, in fact, such a front group may cause more harm in the long run by trying to give the public a false sense of security that fracking can actually be done safely.
According to Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania Organizer at Food & Water Watch “The only way for the fracking industry to self-regulate itself in a fashion that protects the people of Pennsylvania is to kindly end its operations in Pennsylvania and exit our state.”
Right now, the PA Alliance for Clean Water and Air has tallied a “List of the Harmed” from natural gas extraction activities including over 1,200 names of people harmed to date. The concept of sustainable fracking for natural gas and creating voluntary standards for compliance is concept is not only based more on hype from the industry than real science, but it also cons the American public into thinking natural gas can actually become a safe bridge fuel until renewable energy development takes over. This may be why the Sierra Club called this coalition “akin to slapping a band aid on a gaping wound
The Environmental Defense Fund, another coalition member does not consider the partnership a substitute for strong regulations. Unfortunately, the regulations governing shale gas development are seriously wanting in PA. The 80 oil and gas well DEP inspectors we currently have is woefully understaffed to inspect the over 83,000 active oil and gas wells in PA. In fact, a report by Earthworks indicated that 66,000 wells went uninspected in 2011 and about 23% of new wells were not inspected at all. If a coalition wants to hold the gas industry to a higher standard maybe, they should seek to have them follow the same standards as other industries. Currently, they still enjoy special exemptions bestowed from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, where they gained special relief from the Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water and Superfund Acts.
The group established 15 voluntary “performance standards” that operators can follow to attain certification – which they claim is an implicit stamp of approval for consumers. These standards, for which many environmentalists say are set too low, range from well casings to waste disposal practices. Many of the “standards” are vague and misleading such as agreeing to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, unless the industry decides to invoke a proprietary exemption and declares an ingredient is a trade secret, and then they do not have to disclose this to the public. CSSD members agree to follow best industry practices in casing design and installation. However, over the past three years these practices have resulted in an unacceptable leakage rate of 6-7% on new casings. Science and common sense show this failure rate only increases with time. Unfortunately, these s0-called standards call for voluntary compliance. Voluntary compliance with no sanctions, fines, or permit revocation should they fail to live up to their promises, is window dressing. CSSD has absolutely no power or authority to enforce compliance. The fox guarding the hen house is more of the same, as currently the DEP depends too much on voluntary reporting of problems at well sites.
Data from the DEP shows that since 2008, the four drilling operators involved with CSSD – Consol, EQT, Shell, and Chevron – have racked up 237 violations on 100 of their respective wells. This seems hypocritical for an industry that has been blatantly disregarded already weak regulations to now tout empty “standards”.
It is disingenuous of CSSD to use the word “sustainable” in the name. Quality science available, including the casing failure rate, indicates shale development is non-sustainable. Where data is lacking in needed science, as in the health studies, reports indicate this will not be available for decades. Fossil fuels are not sustainable. Fossil fuels are a finite resource, once used they are gone. Sustainable energy is the sustainable provision of energy, which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Technologies that promote sustainable energy include renewable energy sources, such as solar power, wind energy, hydroelectricity, wave power, geothermal energy, and technologies designed to improve energy efficiency.
We should not allow this slick advertising campaign to front an industry that should take a back seat to true sustainable and clean energy that modern societies deserve and can realistically deliver the energy we need, create sustainable jobs in the process, and will help pass on a cleaner planet for future generations.
~Dr. Thomas Jiunta, Spokesperson- Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition