The Arkansas Public Policy Panel released a report this morning, detailing the risks involved with natural gas exploration at every stage of the process and listed recommendations that should be pursued by lawmakers to protect public health and the environment. Rep. Kathy Webb has filed a few legislative solutions to these problems already. The report is one of the most comprehensive I've ever seen, explaining in very readable terms what can often be very esoteric concepts and lingo associated with the industry. The Times has reported heavily on this issue, including the dangers associated with the disposal of drilling waste and the problems experienced by local landowners. From the report:
All other industries (including other energy and resource extractive industries, such as coal and hard rock mining) must comply with environmental measures designed to protect human health and the environment. It is clear that gas exploration and production industries should be subject to these same standards.
Exemptions from federal laws have given the oil and gas industry privileges that are unjustifi ed. In applying for permits to drill or build pipelines in Arkansas, oil and gas production and pipeline companies have promised adherence to Best Management Practices; yet many of these promises go unfulfi lled, and serious damage has already occurred as a result.
Read the press release, complete with a list of policy recommendations, on the jump.
Report Examines Risks of Shale Gas Development,
Makes Recommendations to Balance Property Rights, Gas Development and Environmental Concerns
Little Rock, ARK (Feb. 17, 2011) — The Arkansas Public Policy Panel today releases a report “Arkansas in the Balance: Managing the Risks of Shale Gas Development in the Natural State” to inform legislators and all Arkansas citizens on the potential risks of natural gas development in the Fayetteville Shale Play and recommendations to minimize those risks.
“We are for responsible development of the Fayetteville Shale gas reserves,” said Bill Kopsky, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel Executive Director. “There is a way for the industry to develop this resource right, but the evidence is that they are falling short and jeopardizing our future. Our report summarizes threats to individual property rights as well as clean water, clean air and good health. We conclude with recommendations that would balance the competing interests of gas development.”
Written by long-time Arkansas conservationist Debbie Doss, Chair of the Arkansas Conservation Coalition, the illustrated report follows the life cycle of a typical gas well in the Fayetteville Shale and points out the risks to property rights, water quality, water quantity, air quality, human health, wildlife and natural landscapes at each step of the process. It is available electronically at www.arpanel.org.
“The industry is moving in so fast that no one has had time to really think about what the impacts could be and to prepare a reasonable way of managing those risks,” Ms. Doss said. “We are hearing from landowners across the region that they are deeply concerned about what’s happening. This report provides well researched and credible information to them.”
The report comes out just as Arkansas lawmakers are set to begin considering legislation that is similar to some of the report’s recommendations. The Public Policy Panel says they plan to release another report in the coming weeks that highlights how other states are regulating hydraulic fracture drilling for natural gas to illustrate that Arkansas can improve their practices without harming the industry.
Following are the recommendations from the report:
1. Improve protections for private landowners including more information about their rights and the best management practices they should expect from gas companies, better notification when gas company officials will be on their land and more disclosure of gas company practices and chemicals used on their property.
2. Improve disclosure from gas companies so the public knows the amounts and types of chemicals used, assurance that chemical waste is disposed of properly, the source of water used in the process, the level of contamination of the produced water, how much water is left inside the well, and the fate of the remaining contaminated water after the fracture process.
3. Require gas companies to reduce the noise from their operations to preserve the peace of rural communities.
4. Monitor and regulate air emissions from the gas industry, especially in places where many wells and compressors are concentrated near populated areas, and require the companies to use all cost effective measures to reduce air emissions.
5. Protect water quality from contamination by the gas industry by requiring the gas industry to follow their own best management practices; testing of private water wells that are near proposed gas wells before and after drilling occurs; strengthening regulations and monitoring to ensure that chemicals do not contaminate water at any stage of the drilling process; strengthening regulations that ensure the drill shafts do not corrode or leak into underground aquifers; and requiring the industry to reduce the erosion impacts of the thousands of miles of pipelines, roads and drilling pads.
6. Improve inspection and enforcement at gas drilling sites to make sure each well is inspected at least once a year and more often during critical stages of development to ensure that violations are caught and quickly corrected. The report recommends that Arkansas agencies create a fee system for gas drillers to pay for better inspection and enforcement programs so Arkansas tax payers are not asked to subsidize the industry.
7. Increase bonding requirements to make sure Arkansans do not have to pay for the clean up and closure of abandoned mines.
The Arkansas Public Policy Panel is a statewide organization dedicated to achieving social and economic justice by organizing citizen groups around the state, educating and supporting them to be more effective and powerful, and linking them with one another in coalitions and networks. The Panel seeks to bring balance to the public policy process in Arkansas.