Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
Oct. 10 — Public confusion over the practices involved in hydraulic fracturing has complicated efforts to study and regulate aspects of the process, according to environmental and industry advocates.
“Hydraulic fracturing has evolved to mean a lot more things than fracturing open a rock,” Jason Hutt, a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, said during a panel discussion at the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources fall conference in Miami Oct. 10. Bloomberg BNA was a sponsor of the conference.
Dan Grossman, regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund's Rocky Mountain Office, said the term has become a “surrogate for oil and gas development writ large,” which can complicate efforts to ensure that fracked wells are developed responsibly.
“On the environmental side, it's not helpful to say, ‘We need to ban fracking. It just can't happen,’ ” he said.
Industry and environmental groups have worked extensively, and often in collaboration, to determine whether and how best to regulate various aspects of the hydraulic fracturing process, panelists said.
Industry and environmental groups have worked together to identify and promote best practices, which are often more stringent than state regulations, through the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, Susan Packard Le Gros, the group's president and executive director, said. The group hopes to serve as a laboratory to pioneer voluntary standards that can be promulgated throughout the oil and natural gas industry or adopted by state regulators.
The discussion comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers new regulations for oil and natural gas wells at the direction of the White House. The EPA regulated hydraulically fractured wells in 2012, but that rule did not directly regulate methane emissions, a focus of concern due to climate impacts.
As part of its methane strategy, the White House has ordered the EPA to consider additional regulations, with any new methane standards to be completed by 2016 if the agency deems them necessary.
“We've seen the administration be aggressive on CO2, so it shouldn't surprise anybody they'd be aggressive on methane,” Grossman said.
Even though the EPA's rule did not directly regulate methane emissions, the pollution controls required will provide a “tremendous amount of ancillary benefits,” Hutt said.
Oil and natural gas production is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, trailing only power plants, according to EPA data released Sept. 30.
The Environmental Defense Fund said in a March report that the oil and natural gas industry could reduce methane emissions from its wells by 40 percent using existing, cost-effective technologies.
“Unlike the requirement of putting a scrubber on a power plant smokestack, fixing leaks in the oil and gas chain actually adds value,” Grossman said.
The Environmental Defense Fund also helped Colorado develop the nation's first methane standard for oil and natural gas exploration. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new requirements Feb. 23 on oil and gas companies to detect and reduce methane emissions as well as to reduce releases of volatile organic compounds. The rule—the first of its kind in the nation—is designed to address ground-level ozone and reduce methane emissions that contribute to climate change. It includes new leak-detection requirements for drilling and production processes, monthly inspections of large emissions sources and a timeline for leak repairs at oil and gas facilities.
Interior Department officials also discussed efforts to improve implementation of laws intended to protect vulnerable animal populations during the ABA conference.
Hilary Tompkins, solicitor for the Interior Department, said the department is exploring flexible measures to protect threatened species populations such as state-led agreements by Texas and New Mexico to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard. Tompkins said the success of those agreements could inform the department's efforts to protect the greater sage grouse.
“This is another example of conservation agreements on the ground leading to positive outcomes,” Tompkins said.
The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management told Western governors Oct. 9 that state input is vital to efforts to protect the greater sage grouse.
The Interior Department has also tried to revise its implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, W. Michael Young, assistant solicitor for fish and wildlife in the Interior Department's Parks and Wildlife Division, said. In 2013 the department issued a rule allowing wind farm operators to receive permits to kill or otherwise harm eagles for up to 30 years if measures are adopted to minimize the harm.
The Interior Department previously updated its regulations in 2009, but only one permit had been issued since then, Young said.
“It's not easy to develop these measures,” he said.
The American Bird Conservancy has filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Miami at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)