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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blackmon: Oil & Gas Industry Is Not Exempt from Environmental Laws, Despite Activist Claims to the Contrary

From Forbes:
Late last year, I traveled to Austin to participate in a panel discussion on the Sustainability of Shale Natural Gas at the annual SXSW Eco Conference. My basic role was to be the lone spokesperson for the natural gas industry on a panel whose other three participants were otherwise tilted (predictably) in the opposite direction. Which was fine – I actually enjoy a good debate, at least when the debate is based on facts and focused on real issues surrounding shale gas production.
Unfortunately, as is typical of this kind of setup, that turned out to largely not be the case.  One statement made by the representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) really stood out from the rest. During his opening remarks, he characterized shale gas development as “an unregulated free for all”, and claimed that the “industry is exempt from RCRA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act”, and other major federal environmental laws.
That characterization of the oil and gas exploration and production industry would come as a huge surprise to those who work in it. I personally have had a 33 year career in the industry, and know beyond any doubt that NRDC’s contention here is completely false. The fact of the matter is that pretty much everything anyone at an oil and gas company does on a daily basis is heavily regulated at the federal, state, and local levels, often at multiple levels simultaneously. I know that, and could only marvel that the NRDC could somehow remain unaware of it after years of opposition to the industry’s existence.
This reality was really brought home to me recently as I listened to the director of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) for a large independent natural gas producer go through a presentation about the various state and federal laws and regulations his team of 35 people is responsible for ensuring the company be in compliance with. Note that this company employs around 700 people, so fully 5% of its workforce works full time to ensure compliance, and that does not include the daily efforts by the company’s field and office personnel to ensure compliance in their own activities.
At one point, the HSE Director displayed a slide listing the major federal acts the company must comply with. Lo and behold, that list included “RCRA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act” and other major environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and OSHA, the act that governs workplace safety.
Read the entire article here. 

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