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By Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environmental Lawyer
Advisors to US Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu, have recommended major changes to improve regulation and environmental performance of shale gas fracturing (fracking) in the US. Public consultation is continuing, and the final report will be released in November. Canadian regulators should be paying close attention, as the recommendations are equally applicable here.
The draft report includes extensive Recommendations in 4 key areas:
1. Making information about shale gas production operations more accessible to the public
The report calls for the full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids, and a national database of all public information about shale gas, as well as better communication between regulators. Governments should fund existing multi-stakeholder mechanisms such as the non-profit Ground Water Protection Council's Risk Based Data Management Systemand the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation.
2. Immediate and longer-term actions to reduce environmental and safety risks of shale gas operations, with a particular focus on air and water quality
• Air quality:
Reduce emissions of air pollutants, ozone precursors, and methane as quickly as practicable. The Subcommittee supports adoption of rigorous standards for new and existing sources of methane, air toxics, ozone precursors and other air pollutants from shale gas operations. The Subcommittee recommends:
(1) Enlisting a subset of producers in different basins to design and rapidly implement measurement systems to collect comprehensive methane and other air emissions data from shale gas operations and make these data publically available;
(2) Immediately launching a federal interagency planning effort to acquire data and analyze the overall greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas operations throughout the lifecycle of natural gas use in comparison to other fuels; and
(3) Encouraging shale-gas production companies and regulators to expand immediately efforts to reduce air emissions using proven technologies and practices.
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