In an opinion piece titled “The U.S. Natural-Gas Boom Will Transform the World” published August 14 in The Wall Street Journal, John Deutch, a distinguished public servant and academic who chaired the Shale Gas Subcommittee (SGS) of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, called on the natural gas industry to measure its environmental performance, publicly disclose that performance, and commit to continuously improving it.
Industry should be commended for its initiatives to assure the public about its attention to environmental concerns, but industry leaders can go further. They should adopt a policy of measuring key environmental indicators such as water use and water composition throughout the process—from initial acquisition to retention in lined surface ponds or tanks, disposition in deep waste water wells, re-use in subsequent fracturing operations, or treatment. The key is to gather performance data from the field, publicly disclose these measurements, and commit to continuous improvement as this industry grows.
Deutch’s call comes nine months after he SGS’ final report that found little progress being made on the urgent priorities outlined in its initial report of August, 2011. Clearly, the lack of progress persists.
Mr. Deutch is not alone in that assessment. Earlier this year, fifty five major investment organizations and institutional investors with nearly $1 trillion in assets under management made a similar call, and offered a model for how gas companies could meet it.
The messages are clear. Is anyone listening?