Saturday, August 13, 2011
This week, the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released a ninety-day report that proposes ways to "reduce the environmental impact and improve the safety of shale gas production"--a process that includes the use of hydraulic fracturing. The report recommends that companies drilling and fracturing for natural gas in shale formations reduce the use of diesel fuel in fracturing (and to do this by, among other measures, substituting electric or natural gas engines for diesel engines); reduce methane and other air emissions; disclose the "flow and composition of water at every stage of the shale gas production process" and take other measures to protect water quality; and disclose "all chemicals in fracturing fluids" to the public. One of the most important recommendations is for improved communication among state and federal regulators. States have core regulatory responsibilities over drilling and fracturing, and some of their regulations differ substantially when compared across states. In some cases, these differences may be justified by geographic and climatic variation, but a closer assessment of the reasons behind these differences could help to achieve the stated goals of the report.