Marcellus Shale Drillers in PA Out of Control

Guiding principles or guiding platitudes?

Natural gas companies haven’t set real standards for drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Mike Benard

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, representing nearly 40 U.S. and foreign gas and oil companies, announced with great fanfare its seven “guiding principles” in October.

To date, neither Kathryn Klaber, president of the coalition, nor former Gov. Tom Ridge, paid adviser and spokesman for the coalition, can explain what specifically the shale gas industry will do to fulfill its guiding principles.

This is significant for the industry coalition, headquartered in Canonsburg, because the drilling technique it advocates — high-volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing — is highly controversial, and rightly so.

I’ve been met by silence when I have repeatedly posed the question: What will the shale-gas industry do to implement its principles?

In particular, the Marcellus coalition’s second guiding principle states: “We implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations.”

Excellent. But what does it mean?

Does it mean the coalition instructs or requires its members to:

• Employ the latest emissions technology at hydraulic fracturing gas-well sites?

• Use a closed-loop system to eliminate plastic-lined holding pits, trenches or ponds for liquid drilling waste?

• Install vapor-recovery units on condensate tanks to reduce or eliminate emissions of volatile organic compounds?

• Use zero-emission glycol dehydration units?

• Use pneumatic no-bleed valves to prevent fugitive emissions (which can’t be seen with the naked eye, but which can be seen with an infrared camera)?

• Recycle flowback frack water to reduce the amount of fresh water used in hydraulic fracturing?

Mr. Ridge and Ms. Klaber have not answered these questions yet they tout their “guiding principles” to the press and public across Pennsylvania.

In one recent op-ed column, Mr. Ridge stated: “On Sept. 30, I joined with the leadership of the Marcellus Shale Coalition as we made a pledge to all Pennsylvanians when we released our ‘Guiding Principles: Our Commitment to the Community.’ It is under these principles that the shale gas industry will operate and ultimately be judged in Pennsylvania.”

Ms. Klaber also is on the record in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: “We want to be first and foremost safe and considerate of the communities we operate in.”

To underscore industry’s commitment to these principles, the coalition states: “We recognize that to succeed in business, we not only embrace these principles, we live by them each and every day. This will be our legacy.”

All of this sounds great, but without a commitment to specific actions, such as implementing the latest emissions technology at the well pad, guiding principles are merely guiding platitudes. And it won’t take long for property owners, the public and elected officials to figure this out.

“State-of-the-art” environmental protection should be just that. And the phrase “we implement” is present tense. But why are the folks who say they “not only embrace these principles, [they] live by them each and every day” silent on what their principles mean in practice?

Mike Benard, founder of Spectra Energy Watch, a property rights blog (, owns property in Bedford County, Pa., and is a former gas-lease owner ( He lives in Rochester, N.Y.

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One thought on “Marcellus Shale Drillers in PA Out of Control”

  1. People don’t listen to what you say, they listen to what you do.Tom Ridge as Governor of Pa .,signed into law the Growing Greener Law. It was to take unuseable Industrial properties ( Brownfields)and clean them up. Promote clean forrest and recreation as a vital industry in our beautiful state.Now, as paid spoksperson for the domestic and foreign gas drillers, he is promoting the industrialization of our Forrest and Farmlands, making them into ( Brownfields). Everyone has a number. A million dollars bought his integrity.The legacy will last longer than the money.

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