Posted July 15, 2011
There was a great point at the tail end of this week's hydraulic fracturing public hearing hosted by the Energy Department's natural gas subcommittee.
When asked about industry compliance with Wyoming regulations that require each oil and natural gas well to get an air-quality permit, state Department of Environmental Quality Director John Corra had positive things to say. "Industry has risen to the occasion," Corra said. "We have willing partners in this effort to make this as clean as possible."
Some might dismiss Corra's remark as anecdotal, but the subcommittee shouldn't. The panel was created to assess what's happening with hydraulic fracturing and the effectiveness of state regulatory efforts. The Wyoming example suggests a larger truth: The oil and natural gas industry is committed to working with regulators and is doing so - even aiding the mission by assembling best practices that guide operators and state officials alike.
While subcommittee members understandably seek data to quantify the effectiveness of industry standards and state regulations, they should resist the Washington tendency to impose a one-size-fits-all regulatory regime that might rival the density of an old Manhattan phone book.
The fact is API and its members have drawn on extensive field experience to craft its best practices series, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute. Considered the authority on U.S. standards, the institute also accredits programs at a number of national laboratories.
API's standards are developed collaboratively with contributions from industry, technical experts from government, academia and other stakeholders. They're normally reviewed every five years, but are reviewed more frequently when needed. API Director of Standards David Miller, at a recent House hearing:
"Our industry's top priority is to provide energy in a safe, technologically sound and environmentally responsible manner. We therefore take seriously our responsibility to work in cooperation with government to develop practices and equipment that improve the operational and regulatory process across the board."
Here's more evidence of industry's earnestness: positive action under way to strengthen the FracFocus disclosure registry on hydraulic fracturing fluids and cooperation with STRONGER, a non-profit organization that helps states with environmental regulations associated with oil and natural gas development.
These help refute the notion, advanced by opponents of abundant and affordable natural gas, that industry doesn't care about the environment or the needs of local residents. The reality is industry has a large stake in getting things right. The investments are simply too large to be risked by alienating state and local governments as well as property owners. Check out this video on industry-community relationships:
Let's remember that natural gas, most of it in this country produced through hydraulic fracturing, is an unbelievable asset. It's our national treasure, an energy game-changer. It's also an economic dynamo, producing boom conditions in Pennsylvania, Texas and other places.
Additional Resource: Chesapeake Energy hydraulic fracturing primer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.