A careful reader of the recent AP article about the Center for Sustainable Shale Development should have quickly noticed the gas industry slant of the "news". Heralded as a cooperative agreement between the shale gas industry and key environmental organizations, the article only tells part of the story.
First and foremost, the only grass-roots environmental organizations that will continue to be involved in the future of the Center are the Clean Air task Force and the Environmental Defense Fund. The web sites for both of these organizations cast a dim view of the shale gas industry, in spite of the fact they believe some cooperation with the shale gas industry is needed. The portrayal of the Center as some sort of balance among industry giants and environmentalists is hogwash.
Second, the real test for the Center will be how certifications are actually obtained. The performance standards, though limited in scope, seem tough enough, to be sure. The Center's web site states that the certification procedure is still in development, and that once established, auditors meeting the Center's qualifications will be retained to evaluate an applicant company's practices. Practices? The PA DEP, with dozens of degree-holding inspectors, cannot adequately monitor the industry even at its current slow pace what level of effort will be needed to evaluate a company's actual performance, not "practices", under what are touted as much more stringent standards? I believe it just won't happen.
Lastly, the standards established by the Center do not include broader environmental impacts such as deforestation, forest fragmentation, storm water impacts, increasing flooding hazards, and the loss of important bird and animal species resulting from habitat destruction. Without an evaluation of these long-term and cumulative impacts, currently not required by state or federal laws, we can count on the eventual loss of what many of us enjoy most in north-central Pennsylvania. I don't think natural gas will be worth it in the long run.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom