Greens, industry mine ‘fracking’ report for political ammo

In a statement Thursday, the Independent Petroleum Association of America pointed to the report’s focus on improving transparency and management.

“While the Report makes a number of recommendations, these recommendations are largely directed at improving public knowledge about development and enhancing the effectiveness of the current management of shale gas development environmental risks,” said Barry Russell, the group’s president.

"The Report stands in stark contrast to the strident, hysterical demands for moratoria on hydraulic fracturing," he said.

The report – by a panel of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board – includes calls for “rigorous” air pollution standards and mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, and new collection of air emissions and water data.

But the report, while calling for “strong” regulation, also emphasizes industry-led efforts and “best practices,” and doesn’t wade into calls to end exemptions from Safe Drinking Water Act rules.

Indeed it largely steers clear of recommending specific rules, and the report notes it’s not within the panel’s scope in the study to make recommendations about the “proper regulatory roles for state and federal governments.”

The environmental group Earthjustice highlighted the report’s call for improving disclosure of chemicals, tracking wastewater, and better collection and disclosure of air pollution data from shale gas drilling.

“The gas industry needs to change the way it’s been doing business. This report by the Department of Energy subcommittee identifies a lengthy to-do list for the gas industry and shows just how far this industry has to go before its practices can be considered safe for public health and the environment,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.

But the report drew criticism from industry and green groups too.

Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute lauded the report for praising the role of expanded shale gas development in lowering prices and creating jobs.

But he also said there are some inaccuracies and mischaracterizations, noting the report doesn’t give enough credit to EPA’s initiatives to reduce emissions from gas production sites.

“Had we had an industry representative on this panel we would have been able to avoid that,” said Milito, API’s director of exploration and production.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Working Group, meanwhile, said the report falls short in several ways, such as failing to address industry exemptions from various environmental rules.

“Our concern with the general tone was that the panel seemed to be far more focused on the PR problems of the fracking industry than the environmental and health implications of the industry’s practices,” said spokeswoman Leeann Brown.

Her group has also criticized industry ties of members of the panel, which includes people on the boards of directors of energy companies.