Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro announced a set of new requirements for oil and gas companies directed toward controlling methane emissions, disclosing pollution data, and increasing transparency. A portion of implementing these requirements involves a novel partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and natural gas driller CNX Resources (CNX).
The PADEP will carry out detailed studies of unconventional gas wells and will have access to two future CNX well sites to monitor methane emissions before, during, and after well development. CNX will also post air quality data for well locations via a public website. This reporting effort will begin with well pad NV110 and expand to facilities in all phases well development through six months of the production phase.
Unconventional oil and gas wells using hydraulic fracturing can pose a risk due to chemicals used in the process. In 2020, a grand jury investigation found that Pennsylvania’s state agencies did not do enough to protect residents from these potential health risks, and this partnership and requirements are in response to these findings.
The collaboration between PADEP and CNX serves as a blueprint for other companies to voluntarily exceed environmental and health standards; along with promoting an atmosphere of transparency and mutual trust between the industry and regulators. In addition to monitoring air and water quality and providing open and real-time emissions data through this collaboration, CNX will expand its no-drill zones, support additional safety measures for transporting waste away from well sites, publicly disclose all drilling and frac’ing chemicals before they are used on site, and support further inspection and regulation of pipelines and other equipment.
The collaboration between CNX and PADEP is a notable departure from past approaches to regulation; although the partnership holds promise for further transparency, some groups remain skeptical while others cautiously welcome the collaboration. Some groups cite previous violations by CNX and express concerns that changes coming from the collaboration may not be sufficient to protect the environment and human health. However, others welcome the opportunity to work directly with the industry to collect more air and water quality data from well sites.
Industry groups have also expressed concerns about the possible economic effects of further regulations. However, greater transparency holds the potential for industry and regulators to come together to develop regulations that protect the public and the environment while maintaining economic growth. Companies voluntarily implementing policies of transparency will lead to increased community trust and positive economic outcomes, as the increase in transparency will allow for better-informed decisions and rulemaking.
Oct 27, 2021
With 3 million abandoned wells across the United States (2 million are still unplugged, according to the EPA), some states are creating programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Capping abandoned wells, which emit millions of metric tons of methane, can cut these emissions by 99%. But federal funding is critical to addressing the issue....