It was recently announced that a voluntary program to regulate fracking has been agreed to by some of the nation’s biggest energy companies and environmental groups who have agreed on a voluntary set of standards for Gas and Oil “fracking” in the Northeast. These new standards are expected to go further than existing State and Federal pollution regulations now on the books in some states. The unlikely partnership includes huge energy corporations like Shell Oil and Chevron and environmentalists such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Clear Air Task Force, and interested community members such as HEINZ Endowments, EQT Corp., Consol Energy, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Counsel. The new standards include limits on emission of methane; the flaring of unwanted gas; reduction of engine emissions; groundwater monitoring and protection; improved well designs; stricter waste water disposal; the use of less toxic fracking fluid; and seismic monitoring before drilling begins.
The geography covered will include the states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, all neighbors of New York State sharing both the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, which means New York is within the geographic footprint.
These new standards could easily be adopted here in New York. However, with the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells still in existence, New York continues to lag behind other states in finding acceptable solutions to the competing interests involved in hydraulic fracturing. While New York’s eventual regulations may be stricter than what has been agreed to by both industries and environmentalists, nevertheless the minimum standards set by this new agreement will bring the other states much closer to what New York professes to be striving for: a responsible approach to hydraulic fracturing given the environmental concerns involved.