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State-Based Regulation

Currently, states lead the day-to-day oversight of natural gas development because they have the on-the-ground personnel and expertise to safeguard local air, land and water. State-level enforcement is considered critical because drilling practices are customized to the unique geological characteristics of different parts of the country. ANGA member companies support appropriate state oversight and recognize the role it plays in helping ensure safe and responsible development.

The geology of natural gas formations can vary greatly from region to region - even wellsite to wellsite in some areas. For example, Texas' Eagle Ford Shale and the surrounding environment is vastly different than the geology in Texas' Barnett Shale to the north, just as it is different from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale. Each shale, and even different parts of the same shale, possesses unique geological characteristics that require specialized approaches to developing the natural gas found there. Well design, location, spacing, operation, water management and disposal, waste management and disposal, wildlife impacts and surface disturbance are all variables that differ and are accounted for by state-led regulation.

Diversified Geography:

  • Louisiana - Surface water sources are abundant, so companies strive to use this source of water in place of aquifers used by many of the residents in the rural sections of the Haynesville Shale.
  • Texas - A significant portion of Texas' Barnett Shale is produced in urban areas. Producers working in this region must be more sensitive to water consumption, noise, air emissions and produced water disposal.
  • Texas - The Eagle Ford Shale is found in an arid part of Texas. Water recycling is not an option here because the rock is so dry that very little of it returns to the surface. Companies operating in this location are adapting through a variety of innovative measures, including systems that use substantially less water, and/or by relying on non-potable water sources.
  • Where feasible, companies take advantage of seasonal precipitation, and reuse water from industrial processing plants and city wastewater plants.
  • Arkansas and Pennsylvania: The industry is moving aggressively toward 100% recycling of the water used in its operations because underground disposal options are limited in these areas.

Federal Regulations:

In addition to their own regulations, state regulatory agencies enforce existing federal laws, which include:

  • The Clean Water Act regulates surface water discharges and storm-water runoff.
  • The Clean Air Act sets rules for air emissions from engines, gas processing equipment and other sources associated with drilling and production activities.
  • The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the disposal of fluid waste deep underground (far below fresh water supplies and separated by approximately one mile of impermeable rock).
  • The National Environmental Policy Act requires permits and environmental impact assessments for drilling on federal lands.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (administered by OSHA) sets standards to help keep workers safe. These include requiring Material Safety Data Sheets be maintained and readily available onsite for any chemicals used by workers at that location.
  • The Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act requires storage of regulated chemicals in certain quantities to be reported annually to local and state emergency responders.

Independent Organizations:

There are several organizations that work to ensure proper regulations are in place at the state level:

Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission:

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) is a multi-state government agency that works to ensure that natural gas, among other energy sources, is developed while protecting health, safety and the environment.

STRONGER:

The State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization whose purpose is to assist states in documenting the environmental regulations associated with developing natural gas. The organization shares innovative techniques and environmental protection strategies, and identifies opportunities for state's to improve their regulations. Its Board includes members from the environmental, state commission and industry communities, including representatives from EPA, Earthworks, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Groundwater Protection Council.

 

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