New Fracking Standards Not Supported by Environmental Organizations by Ecowatch, March 23, 2013
Environmental organizations are objecting to a misleading announcement coming from the oil and gas industry that says they have “made peace” with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary fracking standards. According to the announcement made, the oil and gas industry believes the new standards “could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls.” They’re wrong. In fact, the anti-fracking movement is large and getting larger as evidence mounts that fracking cannot be done safely, contributes to climate change, endangers the human and animal health and safety, tears apart communities, and pollutes our air and water. “The cynical intentions of the drillers are stated clearly in the announcement. They say they want to ‘hasten the expansion of fracking.’ They say they want to ‘bypass the often turbulent legislative process altogether.’ They say they want to make ‘drilling more acceptable to states and communities that fear the environmental consequences.’ Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing. These statements reveal the industry’s self-serving attitude known all too well to those whose lives have been impacted by drilling,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.
The voluntary standards are listed on the oxymoronically-named website sustainableshale.org. The so-called “tough new standards” don’t appear to be substantially different from the corresponding regulations the industry has been blatantly disregarding for years. In addition, they fail to address many issues including radioactivity, methane migration, drill cuttings, community disruption, forest fragmentation, LNG, and compressor stations, to name but a few.
“The overwhelming harm of gas development on communities being drilled and our natural environment demands real action, not limp attempts at ‘management’ that just rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “First, we need a nationwide moratorium on drilling, then we need to let science and health professionals fully examine and expose the truth about the inherently polluting fracking process, while we work as a nation to replace these deadly resource extraction industries with energy efficiency and clean, truly sustainable energy sources,” “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,” said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania organizer at Food & Water Watch. “Pennsylvania needs a ban on fracking, and it needs it now.”
“Experience has shown that large, industry-oriented environmental groups do not necessarily represent the interests of grassroots, community-based organizations,” said Melissa Troutman, outreach coordinator of Mountain Watershed Association. “If you read the book Managing Activism: PR Advice for Neutralizing Democracy, author Denise Deegan advises that this sort of ‘dialogue’ is industry’s most effective method for managing activists. In our experience, this is true.” The anti-fracking movement extends far beyond the environmental community to include religious groups, sportsmen’s associations, health organizations, social justice organizations, renewable energy organizations, political groups, farming associations, and others. The groups the industry worked with on this project are not generally considered to be among the hundreds of groups in the movement in Pennsylvania, as they have maintained an industry-friendly stance on drilling.
Jay Sweeney, chair of the Green Party of Pennsylvania said, “I was flabbergasted to read the article saying the oil & gas industry had made peace with environmentalists. I read the article looking to find out exactly what environmentalists had been consulted and found none. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands by our position that fracking must be banned!”
“This brilliant propaganda on the part of the gas industry and national groups that are not so much environmental organizations as they are greenwashing collaborators only serves to underscore the collective fear they have of how organized, how effective, how nimble, and how truly threatening the grassroots coalition against fracking has become to the interests of the corporate profit agenda of the fossil fuel barons,” said Julie Edgar, organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “We stand united—we will not be co-opted—we will not be mollified by what amounts to no more than a crock of radioactive fracking sludge.”
Pennsylvania anti-fracking groups are not the only ones speaking out against these voluntary fracking standards. Josh Fox on behalf of Americans Against Fracking, said: “The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a new greenwashing group backed by the oil and gas industry, will not mitigate the economic, environmental and public health threats posed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). That is because no amount of regulations can ever make fracking safe. It is an inherently dangerous practice.
“Americans Against Fracking, a coalition representing over 190 organizations dedicated to protecting Americans from the devastating effects of fracking, urges the public and policy makers to see this endeavor for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to mask the irreparable damage posed by a practice that has been linked to air and water contamination, cardiovascular disease and the industrialization of rural communities. “This center does not represent the interests of the environmental community, and very few members of the movement to protect communities and their vital resources from fracking were consulted in the development of the center’s so-called ‘standards.’ In fact, there is a growing movement that recognizes that fracking must be banned. Partnerships such as this only set the stage to escalate fracking activity, while reinforcing our addiction to fossil fuels. “This initiative is brought to us by the same industry that negotiated exemptions from key environmental protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. We can’t trust them to take the physical or economic safety of Americans to heart.”
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Voluntary Standards Don’t Make Fracking Safe by J. Mijin Cha, March 22, 2013, Huffingtonpost.ca
The Center will certify companies meet their performance standards but there is no requirement that a fracking company must be certified before it can operate in a state. The Center’s efforts don’t really change whether fracking can be done safely. What happens to fracking operators that aren’t certified or who violate a performance standard? They would presumably get rebuked by the Center, which has no legal or regulatory enforcement power. This is, in fact, the definition of greenwashing. Oil and gas companies can claim to abide by these higher standards but there is no guarantee they will or endure any repercussions if they don’t comply. The Center’s new standards are not a game changer. They do not make fracking safer because they are not enforceable. [Emphasis added]
Environmentalists, Drillers Reach ‘Truce’ For Fracking Standards by Elizabeth Shogren, March 21, 2013, NPR State Impact
A group of environmentalists and drilling companies has crafted a truce of sorts over the rapid spread of natural gas production in the Appalachian Basin. Four major drilling companies and several environmental groups have agreed on 15 voluntary standards for cleaner drilling practices. … But many environmental groups have complained that the companies have contaminated the air and water. Chevron hopes to put an end to those claims. Chevron and Shell are among the four major drilling companies that have worked on the standards for two years with an assortment of environmental groups. The idea is that drilling companies will agree to be audited. Independent experts will visit their operations and determine if they are complying with the new standards. …
But just how rigorous are these standards? … “The new standards are a mix of what’s already being done, some positive new advances and, I think, a few missed opportunities,” says Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University who studies the effects of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania. Jackson says that for water, the standards are pretty good. The industry uses vast quantities of water, and the standards set a target for recycling 90 percent of it. … The standards also would prohibit the discharge of dirty water into streams. Any wastewater would have to be injected into the ground in deep wells. But Jackson says he is disappointed that standards don’t include requirements to measure the air pollution that is pumped out from wells and equipment. “If a compound — a chemical like benzene or toluene — drifts downwind into where people live and into the air they breathe, it could have health consequences, and we need more information about that,” Jackson says. Some environmental groups are skeptical about the effort because the standards are voluntary and, so far, only a handful of drilling companies have agreed to the deal. “We’re very dubious that everybody would sign up,” says Kate Sinding, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is an industry that, for the most part, has shown itself not to be trustworthy. … The first audits of cleaner fracking are expected by the end of the year. [Emphasis added]
Sierra Club blasts new plan to improve fracking by Kevin Begos, Associated Press, March 21, 2013, Mercury News
The Sierra Club and some other environmental groups are harshly criticizing a new partnership that aims to create tough new standards for fracking. … “This deal in no way represents the interests or agreement of the people being harmed by fracking in Ohio,” said Sandy Buchanan, the director of Ohio Citizen Action. “A hydraulic fracturing peace treaty? Not so fast, my friend.” … The Environmental Defense Fund responded to the Sierra Club criticism by noting that the new plan is meant to be a complement to strong regulations, not a replacement. “When an opportunity comes to engage companies constructively and hold them to a higher standard, we’re going to take that opportunity every time,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF associate vice president. He added that the new partnership with oil and gas companies comes with “a heavy dose of trust but verify” reality. … Meanwhile, Pennsylvania regulators have endorsed the new plan. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Kevin Sunday said the agency “applauds this collaboration between natural gas operators and non-governmental organizations. The best practices this group’s document speaks to—better on-site waste management practices, more recycling of wastewater, progressive fracturing fluid disclosure, and protecting private water supplies—are vital concepts of responsible gas development.” Sunday said the state has toughened standards over the last few years, and he praised “a cooperative spirit among oil and gas stakeholders to continually raise the bar of performance.”
Another person who was involved with the creation of the Pittsburgh center suggested that the Sierra Club and others are missing a key point. John Hanger, the former director of the Pennsylvania DEP, wrote in a blog post Thursday that “ultimately, it will matter not that individual gas producers like or dislike CSSD. What will be decisive is that consumers of gas from Washington DC to Maine and from New York to Chicago will demand that their gas is certified as sustainably managed.” [Emphasis added]
Gas companies, environmentalists agree on tough VOLUNTARY standards for Northeast fracking by Kevin Begos, The Associated Press, March 20, 2013, 570News Some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for fracking in the Northeast that could lead to a major expansion of drilling. The program announced Wednesday will work a lot like Underwriters Laboratories, which puts its UL seal of approval on electrical appliances that meet its standards. In this case, drilling and pipeline companies will be encouraged to submit to an independent review of their operations. If they are found to be abiding by a list of stringent measures to protect the air and water from pollution, they will receive the blessing of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development, created jointly by environmentalists and the energy industry. Many of the new standards appear to be stricter than state and federal regulations. If the project wins wide acceptance, it could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls. And it could hasten the expansion of fracking by making drilling more acceptable to states and communities that feared the environmental consequences. Shell Oil Vice-President Paul Goodfellow said this is the first time the company and environmental groups have reached agreement to create an entire system for reducing the effects of shale drilling. “This is a bit of a unique coming-together of a variety of different interests,” said Bruce Niemeyer, president of Chevron Appalachia.
In agreeing to the self-policing system, members of the industry said they realized they needed to do more to reassure the public about the safety of fracking. On the other side, environmentalists said they came to the conclusion that the hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and gas underground is going to be extracted one way or another and that working with the industry is the quickest path to making the process safer. “We do recognize that this resource is going to be developed,” said Robert Vagt, president of the Heinz Endowments, a charitable foundation that has bankrolled anti-fracking efforts. “We think that it can be done in a way that does not do violence to the environment.” In addition to Shell and Chevron, the participants include the Environmental Defence Fund, the Clean Air Task Force, EQT Corp., Consol Energy and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the organizers hope to recruit others.
The new standards include limits on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and the flaring, or burning off, of unwanted gas; reductions in engine emissions; groundwater monitoring and protection; improved well designs; stricter wastewater disposal; the use of less toxic fracking fluids; and seismic monitoring before drilling begins. The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio — where a frenzy of drilling is under way in the huge, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations — as well as New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling.
The co-operation between the two longtime adversaries may be part of a trend. Earlier this month a coalition of industry and environmental groups in Illinois announced that they worked together on drilling legislation now pending there. But the Pittsburgh project, which has been in the works for nearly two years, would be voluntary. … Shell said it hopes to be one of the first companies to volunteer to have its operations in Appalachia go through the independent review. Chevron said it expects to apply for certification, too, when the process is ready to start later this year. Mark Brownstein, an associate vice-president with the Environmental Defence Fund, said many oil and gas companies claim to be leaders in protecting the environment, and “this can be one opportunity for them to demonstrate that leadership” by submitting to an audit.
The project will be overseen by a 12-member board consisting of four seats for environmentalists, four for industry and four for independent figures, including former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency chief. The centre’s proposed 2013 budget is $800,000, with the two sides expected to contribute equal amounts, said Andrew Place, the project’s interim leader and director of energy and environmental policy at EQT, an Appalachian energy company. Mark Frankel, an expert on ethics and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, said the idea sounds promising, but it remains to be seen if the new standards are a significant improvement over existing laws. He said there are also ethical and policy questions. “What does it mean to have an independent board? Who’s on it? How do they get on it?” he asked. …
But some critics of fracking weren’t swayed by the new plan. “Fracking is an inherently dangerous industrial process that takes us away from sustainable energy solutions. Its costs to humans and our environment just aren’t worth it,” said Kathy Nolan of Catskill Mountainkeeper, which is fighting fracking in New York state. [Emphasis added]
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Source: FrackingCanada Fracking Calgary
Years ago, Synergy Alberta and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers made similar promises as the Center for Sustainable Shale Development has. Albertans remain waiting for the promises to materialize while behind closed doors, real laws and regulations are deregulated until soon there will only be broken promises left. Slide above from Ernst presentation September 22, 2012, Whitehorse, Yukon
Slide from Chapter on Synergy Alberta Ernst Presentation to Eagle Hill Alberta, March 15, 2012
Why does collaboration between environmental groups and oil and gas companies exclude “responsibility guidelines?” Who will “voluntarily” supply water, soil and air to families when “tough voluntary standards” and “best practices” are ignored?
Source: Public Accountability Initiative