Gas producers need transparency to regain trust on fracking: EDF head
Houston (Platts)--4Aug2011/558 pm EDT/2158 GMT
Mark Brownstein, deputy director of the energy program at the
Environmental Defense Fund, urged natural gas producers to disclose chemicals
used in hydraulic fracturing, improve industry standards, and set specific
goals to safeguard the environment in an effort to win back public trust.
"The natural gas industry has huge credibility problems right now and
you shouldn't allow yourselves for a moment to be lulled into the idea that
it is just a few, left-wing, tofu-eating, renewable-energy loving,
latte-sipping, cave dwellers from San Francisco who are causing all the
fuss," he said Thursday, at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association Energy
Epicenter conference in Denver.
Brownstein said the first step in repairing public trust involves a full
data disclosure on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including the
names of all chemicals -- not just those regulated by the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration, as well as the volumes used at each site.
"Everyone needs to do this, not just self-appointed progressives in the
industry," he said.
Brownstein said he believes a combination of state and federal regulation
would be needed to make this happen but then put forth a challenge to the
audience: "I invite you to prove me wrong."
He also urged the industry to set ambitious environmental goals with
target dates, such as a commitment that all fracking fluids will be
completely non-toxic by 2020.
Brownstein also said the industry must set high standards and develop
ways to hold each other accountable for these practices -- including large
and small players.
"For all of the attention that fracking has received, you all know that
the real pathways to groundwater pollution are poor cement casings,
inadequate storm water management, and sloppy handling of frack chemicals and
flow back water at the surface," he said.
Theses are not technical issues, but management and worker training
issues, he added.
Hydraulic fracturing and its coverage in the press have been a major
theme at the COGA conference.
On Wednesday, Halliburton president and CEO Dave Lesar, a keynote
speaker, carried a container with fracking fluid to the podium and had one of
his employees drink it, to prove it was safe.
Brownstein said the gesture "shows that companies are beginning to turn
and work towards more environmentally benign practices and technologies."
Earlier at the conference, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado
announced a joint program between the state and COGA to collect groundwater
samples before and after new hydraulic fracturing operations, to test whether
they are harmful to the environment.
The governor said the effort was the first of its kind and was needed to
fight doubts and "paranoia" about the effects of hydraulic fracturing
In a brief interview after his speech, Brownstein applauded the
Colorado water sampling effort, saying it is an important step.
"There is a crying need to get good baseline data," he said. It is "very
difficult to assess whether or not fracking has impact on groundwater or just
well-drilling in general has impact on groundwater if there is no baseline
data upon which to compare."
Brownstein said such water sampling programs need to become widespread,
either by other state voluntary programs or regulation.
--Eunice Bridges, email@example.com