Unconventional Compromises on Natural Gas Regulation

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While New York’s natural gas resources remain locked down between perpetual regulatory limbo and extreme polarization among interest groups, recent events have proven that compromise is possible.

Last month, a coalition of environmentalists, industry representatives and lawmakers in Illinois reached a tentative agreement that would allow development of that state’s shale resources, ironically named the New Albany formation, to move forward.  The negotiations were led by Illinois State Representative John Bradley, a democrat who lives in the area prospective for natural gas development.  The negotiations included equal representation from environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center.  The so-called “Bradley Bill” (HB2615) is being touted as a “national model” and the “nation’s strictest.”  Provisions in the bill include container storage of waste fluids, management of drill cuttings, air emissions controls, frac fluid disclosure and water quality testing. 

Compromise is apparently not just a Midwest thing, however.  In the heart of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, a coalition of industry representatives, environmental groups and foundations created the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (“CSSD”), whose founding members include: 

  • Chevron
  • Clean Air Task Force
  • CONSOL Energy
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • EQT Corporation
  • Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP)
  • Heinz Endowments
  • Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • Shell
  • William Penn Foundation

More importantly, the CSSD recently announced its development of a voluntary certification program based on performance standards established by CSSD.  Later this year operators will be able to obtain certification through CSSD qualified independent auditors.  The initial 15 performance standards focus on air, climate and water resources.

In light of these developments, it is notable that New York’s Revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement and proposed regulations include many measures that are similar to the requirements in these groundbreaking compromises.