New Group Formed to Look at Shale Gas Drilling in Appalachia

A coalition of charitable organizations, environmentalists, and drilling companies is planning to launch a watchdog group based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that will examine shale gas drilling practices in Appalachia, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Scheduled to launch next month, the Institute for Gas Drilling Excellence will work to encourage best practices and measure the performance of shale gas drillers using a system similar to LEED, the green building certification system. Initial participants include the Environmental Defense Fund, PennFuture, the Heinz Endowments, EQT, and Shell. How the effort will be funded — and how much influence the industry might have over it — have not been divulged publically.

While many industry experts view the effort favorably, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition — which works with energy companies in Appalachia and across the country to address natural gas concerns — told the Tribune-Review that the organization would not participate. "While we certainly recognize the ongoing efforts of various stakeholders, our organization remains very focused on continuing to develop our recommended practices," said a spokesperson for the coalition.

Others, however, told the Tribune-Review that they look forward to learning more about the organization's plans. "I think it's an important initiative that's potentially different from the industry-led best-practice groups," said John Hanger, a former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection who helped create the institute but subsequently stepped down after he decided to run for governor in 2012. "I'm eager to see what is publicly announced."

Timothy Puko. "New 'Certification' Group to Look Closely at Shale Gas Drillers." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 02/11/2013.