BBC News reports today that BP’s former CEO, Edmund John Philip Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley, otherwise (and perhaps mercifully) known as Lord Browne, told attendees of the ReSource 2012 conference on water, food and energy scarcity in Oxford that the unconventional gas industry needs stronger government regulation to prevent bad practices.
Lord Browne is quoted by BBC News as saying, "Shale gas has a very bad reputation, as a result of the weak players cutting corners.” That reputation has been well earned - but not, however, just by the so-called weak players. Here in Pennsylvania, the largest and strongest companies in the industry have recorded violations of state regulations or experienced other troubles of their own. Lord Browne should know that no company in the industry is blameless. According to the article, he is a director of fracking firm Cuadrilla Resources. A Cuadrilla site in Lancashire UK had to stop test fracking in 2011 after its operations caused two small earthquakes. That prompted the UK government to rule that test fracking could continue, but only under strict conditions.
Lord Browne is further quoted as saying, “Regulation tightening would be welcome."
Browne is just the latest industry leader to join with investors in calling for tighter regulation of the industry. This growing chorus recognizes the obvious – it is to the gas industry’s advantage to embrace tough rules. Requiring all industry players – the so-called weak and strong alike – to perform at a high level protects the environment and climate, addresses public fears, and enhances the industry’s social license to operate – all at minimal net cost to the industry. Raising the regulatory bar is also critical for the industry to take advantage of global shale gas opportunities. Fracking is banned in France, Bulgaria, and, according to BBC, Switzerland. How China approaches its shale gas resources depends upon industry performance elsewhere.
Tough regulations benefit everyone. Governments must respond.