Last Ditch Effort to Block Clean Power Plan

by Katy Schaefer

In August of 2015, the Obama Administration finalized what has come to be known as the Clean Power Plan. This controversial plan aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. Each site would have different requirements of how, and how much it needs to reduce, but plans for how to meet this goal must be submitted in 2016. If everything goes well, implementation is expected to begin by 2022. However, 27 states, led by West Virginia have a problem with this plan, and are doing everything they can to stop it in its tracks. Continue reading

Department of Interior Proposal to Reduce Methane Emissions

by Judy Li

On January 22, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell announced proposals for a new rule to reduce natural gas emissions and waste from oil and gas drilling on public and Native American lands. Companies have to adopt currently available methods to limit the venting, flaring and leaking of natural gas during production. According to the Interior Department, the natural gas lost from public lands between 2009 and 2014 could power more than 500 million homes for a year. In calling for changes, Secretary Jewell emphasized the need to reduce waste of natural gas supplies, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide taxpayers a fair return from public resources (via royalties). Current regulations are 30 years old; meanwhile, the oil and gas industries have grown, and technology advances have allowed for more efficient production. Furthermore, the Obama Administration is set on fighting climate change and has a goal of reducing methane emissions from oil and gas by 40 – 45% from 2012 levels by 2025. Continue reading

Will Increased Natural Gas Usage Decrease the Effects of Climate Change?


by Alex Frumkin

The improvement of hydraulic fracturing technologies in the last decade has allowed access to previously uneconomic shale gas resources across North America. Natural gas production is often touted as a way to cut carbon emissions to slow down climate change because gas-fired power plans emit roughly half as much CO2 per unit of energy produced as coal-fired plants. There are some assessments that have been completed, though, that argue that natural gas lifecycle emissions are actually higher than those of coal because of emissions from shale gas production. In line with this latter idea, Mcjeon et al. (2014), show that market-driven increases in unconventional natural gas production does not discernibly reduce the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions or climate forcing. Continue reading

Marcellus Shale Gas Wastewater Management

by Shannon Julius

Since 2008, the Marcellus shale formation has become the most productive region for extracting shale gas in the US. Managing wastewater for these operations is a challenge not only due to their size and distribution, but also because of the different types of contaminants that are present in various types of wastewater. Rahm et al. (2013) retrieved data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Oil and Gas Reporting website from 2008 to 2011 to look for the trends and drivers of Marcellus shale wastewater management. After analysis using internet resources and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the authors found that there was a statewide shift towards wastewater reuse and injection disposal treatment methods and away from publicly owned treatment works (POTW) use. These wastewater management trends are likely due to new regulations and policies, media and public scrutiny, and natural gas prices. Research also shows that Marcellus shale development has influenced conventional gas wastewater practices and led to more efficient wastewater transportation. Continue reading

Methane Migration from Shale Gas Extraction Contaminates Drinking Water in Pennsylvania

by Shannon Julius

Perhaps the biggest environmental and health concern related to shale gas development is the possibility of contaminants leaking from the well shaft into nearby groundwater supplies. The first sign of such leakage would be stray methane in groundwater, as methane is a small enough molecule to move through tiny spaces and easily dissolves in water. Jackson et al. explored the possibility of stray gas contamination by testing for concentrations of methane, ethane, and propane in drinking water wells of homes in the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania. The researchers generally found higher amounts of dissolved gases in drinking water wells less than one kilometer from a natural gas well. Statistical analysis showed that distance from gas wells was the most significant factor for Continue reading

Impacts of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality

by Shannon Julius

Drilling into shale is a difficult task, as gases are under high pressure and can easily damage the well’s integrity if drilling is done incorrectly. Such damage allows natural gases, particularly methane, to “migrate” through cement seals and into groundwater, which happens with approximately 1–3% of wells in Pennsylvania. The high toxicity of fracturing fluid raises the concern of fluid migration accompanying methane migration, and research has yet to determine the extent to which fracturing fluid can affect groundwater. However, it is highly likely that most of the unrecovered fracturing fluid is absorbed by the shale formation. The remaining fracturing fluid is recovered as Continue reading