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. Its goal is to help sugarcoat a method of natural gas extraction called fracking. Public perception of this technique has suffered because of the many problems caused.
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. 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 that 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. 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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania.
The group established 15 voluntary “performance standards” 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 this is proprietary, in which case 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 percent on new casings. Science and common sense show this failure rate only increases with time. 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.
It is disingenuous of CSSD to use the word “sustainable” in the name. Fossil fuels are not sustainable. Technologies that promote sustainable energy include renewable energy sources, such as solar power, wind energy, hydroelectricity, and technologies designed to improve efficiency.
We should not allow this 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 and help us pass on a cleaner planet for future generations.
Dr. Thomas Jiunta is spokesperson for the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition.