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Monday, September 8, 2014

Water experts urge environmental rules for shale gas extraction

In a report released last week, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has urged nations pursuing the development of shale gas resources to require strict monitoring and regulation, because of its environmental consequences and impacts on scarce water resources.
Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing: Framing the Water Issue makes these recommendations – all of which should be very familiar to frequent readers of this blog:

  • Central and/or local governments engaged in or contemplating shale gas extraction must have clearly defined policies and enforcement strategies in place if the adverse consequences of fracking are to be minimised or avoided. This requires the development and use of a check list that covers both the anticipated benefits of fracking (market value of the shale gas and its jobs and other positive economic impacts) and areas where poor practices and inadequate regulation can lead to negative impacts such as:
  1. Increased water demand.
  2. Inadequate treatment of returned water
  3. Improper disposal of waste water
  4. Possible triggering of seismic events
  5. Community and social disruption due to operational activities.
This check list should be based on best available science and informed by best practices elsewhere.  Regulations must be broadly implemented and adopted in a transparent, participatory process that allows all stakeholder voices to be heard.
Where conflicts arise between broad public interests and the protection of proprietary information, enforcement agencies must insist on full disclosure to ensure maximum protection of public health and the environment…
  • The current research gap on possible negative impacts related to fracking must be closed as quickly as possible, to facilitate informed decisions. 
These impacts include damage to water and air quality, global warming consequences from fracking operations, seismic damage from injected water, and community disruption.
Impacts research should also include analysis of the positive benefits of fracking and the costs of compliance. Research on improved fracking technologies and treatment of waste water returns needs to be encouraged and supported.
  • Water quantity and quality impacts must be fully reported, monitored, and regulated.
There must be full disclosure of fracking water sources, quantity and costs, monitoring and disclosure of waste water quality and disposal, a requirement for mining permits for the use of fossil (ancient, non-rechargeable) water, and identification of competing water uses. 
These are self-evident and common-sense recommendations. They were issued, plainly, because shale gas development in the US proceeded largely without them.

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