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US energy sector is cool to new shale gas standards group

ICIS News : 22-Mar-13 20:49

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US energy industry interests on Friday expressed mixed feelings about a new standards group for shale gas development, with one major oil and gas group noting that its own criteria have been standard for 94 years.

Energy sector officials were reacting to the announcement earlier this week of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a coalition of energy, environmental and public interest groups with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Shell and Chevron are cofounders of the CSSD along with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and seven others.

The CSSD has issued an initial set of 15 performance standards available on a voluntary basis to exploration and production (E&P) firms working in the Appalachian Basin, principally in the states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

The Appalachian Basin in part overlies the Marcellus shale play, one of the largest and richest shale gas regions in the US.

Group members said it is their hope that their standards – governing exploration, development and gathering activities – will gain broad industry support and eventually serve as a model for national policy on hydraulic fracturing and other aspects of shale gas and oil recovery.

“Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly,” said Bruce Neimeyer, president of Chevron Appalachia.

EDF president Fred Krupp said that the CSSD “has an important role to play in the on-going process of continuous advancement of industry practices that must improve to protect neighbours of oil and gas development and the environment we all share”.

E&P firms that agree to meet the CSSD standards will have to submit to third-party verification of their performance, according to the CSSD.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), a group of more than 300 companies involved in development of the Marcellus shale play, said of the CSSD that it “appreciates this diverse group’s support for our member companies’ development of natural gas and engaging in a process to embrace its clear environmental and public health benefits”.

But MSC chief executive Kathryn Klaber noted that the effort being launched by the CSSD is “recognition that the current regulatory standards in Pennsylvania are protective of public health and the environment and that our member companies are vigorously committed to compliance with this stringent framework”.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the largest US oil and gas trade group, did not express an opinion on the CSSD coalition itself, but noted that “API has been in the standards-making business for 94 years”.

“The Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cite API standards, and so have many state agencies,” the API said.

The CSSD said it hopes to begin accepting E&P companies’ applications for participation later this year.

By Joe Kamalick
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