Fayette Marcellus Watch Commentary
The Center for Cesstainable Shale Development
Recently, a group of parties ostensibly representing the spectrum of
stakeholders in Marcellus Shale — from “environmental groups” to oil
companies to the non-profit funding community — announced formation of
a new organization aimed at creating a set of standards for “best
practices” in shale drilling, and a certification procedure that will
back up the standards with what is supposed to resemble independently verified
credibility. Before discussing the substance of the standards, a word
must be said about the name of this new “player” in the Marcellus
Shale. This organization calls itself by the unforgivable name “Center
). Let it be said at the outset — as loudly
clearly as possible:
There is NOTHING sustainable about shale gas.
When it comes to the environment, it doesn’t get much more basic than
the simple precept: Thou shalt live in a sustainable way. So what does
‘sustainable’ mean? It means, very simply, that what you take from the
world you arrange to have put back. A good example of sustainable
technology is solar panels (photovoltaics). The energy from the sun
converted to electricity by a solar panel is there again tomorrow. What
about shale gas? This is exactly the opposite. The energy in the gas
extracted from the ground is burned and then it’s gone. In fact,
productivity of shale gas wells tanks precipitously
after a shockingly
short number of months. How about the enormous amount of water it takes
to frack a well? This water — whatever amount of it comes back to the
surface — becomes so toxic that we could reasonably call it destroyed
Whatever water you consume in your home, it isn’t really destroyed, it
stays in the water cycle. But not frack water. You could say that shale
gas is actually the poster child for unsustainable energy. When CSSD
has the arrogance to put the word ‘sustainable’ in its name and presume
to be a consensus among shale gas stakeholders, this must be made very
The very name of the organization, Center for Sustainable Shale
Development, is nothing less than an Orwellian Lie
It stands the word ‘sustainable’ on its head. Intentionally
. This is
contemptible. Any group claiming to be an environmental group that is
participating in this lie should be ashamed of itself. So, what does
CSSD mean by ‘sustainable’? Evidently it means: we the people will not
become so outraged at the harm caused by fracking that we will prevent them from
keeping on doing it.
Now let’s look at the substance. You can read the CSSD “performance
Some parts of the CSSD “performance
standards” are appalling and immoral and unacceptable: retention of the
13 medical gag order provisions is outrageous, for instance!
The largest driller by far here in Fayette County (in fact the only
driller filing new permit
) is Chevron. There are
some respects in which the CSSD “performance standards” would be a step
up for Chevron. Closed loop only — no frack pits — would certainly be
an improvement over what Chevron is doing now. If Chevron is really
serious about all this, they could start tomorrow
away with frack pits, instead of waiting two years. Is this likely? Fat
chance. From the agenda for the 3/14/2013 Fayette County Planning
Commission meeting (Project Reviews):
Chevron Appalachia, LLC, applying to
DEP for 1 gas well pad with access, 3 frac pits and a tank farm pad
with access located along Coalbrook Road, Bullskin Township
So it appears that in Fayette County, the answer to when our top-gun
driller and pioneer CSSD member Chevron will start implementing the new
standards” is: stay tuned. We’ll get back to you on that. They aren’t
in effect now, you know.
Which brings us to the question at the heart of the matter:
There’s a short, not-so-sweet, simple answer to this: Accountability in
the CSSD proposal is nowhere
found. And this is why the Center for Cesstainable Shale Development
needs to learn this equation:
assertion of best practice - strong
accountability = ineffective PR
There’s a chance some members of CSSD have seen this equation before.
It’s taken from a Fayette County Public Comment on the SEAB 90 Day
Report, and you can read that comment here
. (On June 13, 2011,
a subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board came to Washington, PA
, to gather “testimony”
(ably packed before the doors were supposed to be open to the public by
the natural gas industry) for a mission remarkably similar to CSSD.) So
we see here what the real mission of CSSD is: PR to convince the public
that drilling is “safe”, but with no accountability whatsoever if a
“certified” driller fails to meet the standard.
There are some things that CSSD member drillers could do to prove to us
- Use some of the funds you’ve raised to lobby Congress to repeal
all parts of the Halliburton Loophole NOW!
- Legally waive all parts of the Halliburton Loophole NOW!
- Provide insurance
to all nearby homeowners against the kind of disaster that befell the
Hallowiches NOW: every
- Do away with frack pits NOW!
- Disclose all pressure anomaly data to the public NOW: every
frack, every well.
- Disclose all microseismic data to the public NOW: every frack,
- Acknowledge that flowback and produced water are hazardous
substances NOW: every
frack, every well.
- Acknowledge that flowback and produced water are likely to be
radioactive NOW: every
frack, every well.
- Provide MSDSs for flowback and produced water NOW: every frack,
- Describe to every frack truck driver the health hazards of the
load being carried NOW: every frack, every well.
- Apply for Air Quality permits for every shale gas well NOW!
Of course none of the measures above will satisfy those insisting on an
outright fracking ban. Coopting and forestalling the outrage that will
lead to a ban is exactly what CSSD is designed to do. Back to the
little equation above: with no real accountability, the CSSD propaganda
moves will not work.
To CSSD: Get real. “Performance
standards” with no accountability are mere hype. We won’t put up with
it! We need real accountability with real teeth. We need to see the