The most fundamental truth uncovered in Earthworks’ just-released report Breaking All the Rules: the Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulation, is that states are falling tragically short in enforcing their own oil and gas development rules.
It is good to see that John Hanger, ex-Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), does not argue that truth.
But even if the numbers shift a bit in some months, the key question that was the impetus to this research remains:
"Can the public have confidence that their health, air and water are being protected?”
Citing different numbers does not even begin to answer this question because the Pennsylvania DEP addressed its enforcement inadequacies in the same manner that allowed the problem to develop in the first place: DEP looked at the amount of drilling as something outside their control, and defined their ability to govern that drilling in terms of the limited resources available to them.
On an average summer, about half of the ice cover of Greenland thaws at its surface. This July, 97% of the surface ice of Greenland melted.
The first days of autumn are often a time to reflect on the fruits of summer, and these recent events in Greenland require nothing less.
China, which currently controls 90% of the world’s rare earth metals, reported in June that it is serious about acquiring new deposits, and is looking to Greenland.
We have released a national report about state enforcement of oil and gas regulations. The national report examines the current state of oil and gas enforcement in Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
This report arose from discussions with oil and gas agency decision-makers, inspectors, members of multi-stakeholder oil and gas organizations, former management-level industry employees, oil and gas and environment attorneys, members of conservation organizations, and representatives of academic institutions - all around the question of what makes enforcement effective.
The debate over shale gas often focuses on staid things like price per million cubic foot, corporate governance, and production figures. Then there’s the human side, the growing number of people nationwide whose lives have been forever changed by the rush to drill. Their views are expressed not in spreadsheets, but in tragically true stories of poor health and polluted water and air.
Last week in Philadelphia, hundreds of citizens, activists, and energy and environmental experts gathered to voice Shale Gas Outrage over the heavy burdens being placed on communities and the environment. Philadelphia was one stop in the journey to Stop the Frack Attack, kicked off by Washington, DC, Columbus, OH, and Albany, NY, and followed soon by Harrisburg, PA and many other places.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to consider rare earth mineral legislation possibly as soon as this month. The bill, S. 1113, the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2012, resulted from careful negotiations between the committee’s chairman and ranking member incorporating many ideas offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). Bipartisanship is at a premium in this town and the value of producing sensible and balanced policy is worth more than the minerals this bill intends to promote.
S. 1113 directs the Secretary of Interior to designate 10 critical minerals and develop and implement a series of studies and comprehensive regulatory reviews related to every aspect of the public input and environmental permitting process. This includes requiring the Secretary to create specific performance metrics designed to measure reductions in permit times for each stage of critical mineral mining operations. Studies are good. And government efficiency is too. The problem is that heavy-handed mandated reductions in permit approval times will reduce the ability of communities impacted by mining to voice their concerns.
Whatever the overall merits of President Obama's speech last night, it made one thing clear: the President has lost his way on natural gas.
Obama -- in declaring his goal to foster the creation of 600,000 natural gas jobs by the end of his second term -- effectively hammered the last nail in the coffin of the pretense that natural gas (i.e. shale gas) is a "bridge" to a clean energy economy.