Sunday, October 23, 2011

US Govt decides Shale Gas Needs More Openness, Better Data

The Natural Gas Subcommittee for the US Energy Secretary has been tasked with "Improving the Safety & Environmental Performance of Hydraulic Fracturing" The Natural Gas Subcommittee's 90-day interim report is now available. Their 180-day final report is expected on November 18, 2011.

The subcommittee web site links to lots of interesting information, including a resources page with links to loads of useful information, transcripts of over 25000 public submissions (and, helpfully, a summary of the public comments!)

 The interim report is briefly reviewed by ScienceInsider:

The subcommittee to the secretary's Energy Advisory Board was not asked who should be regulating shale gas, Zoback says. Regulation now lies primarily with the states. But "we're pointing out what can and should be done." To regain public trust, the report says, much information about shale gas should become readily available to the public, starting with the chemical recipes for the fluids pumped at high pressure into shale to free up the gas. Those fluids sometimes spill onto the surface and into waterways. And much more information should be gathered on the environment before, during, and after drilling. The debate over whether and how drilling and fracking contaminate groundwater with gas—the infamous flaming water faucet of the documentary Gasland—would benefit especially. "We feel very strongly that having good data will advance a lot of the issues," Zoback says.

Some sort of national organization focused on shale gas should also be formed, the report says. It could create a national database of all public information as well as disseminate best practices to industry as they evolve. Added support for existing mechanisms that aid communication among state and federal regulators would also help.

"It's a remarkable report," says Philip Sharp, president of the think tank Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. "It's a balanced, high-caliber group with public input. The report is remarkable in having honest, actionable proposals in it. What they say will get attention."

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