Editor's note: An earlier version of this story described
the report as "peer-reviewed." This description may have given
readers an incorrect impression. The story has been edited to more
accurately describe the process by which the report's authors
gathered comments before finalizing their report.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo's Shale Resources and
Society Institute today issued a report, "Environmental Impacts
During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies," which
offers the first quantitative data review of Pennsylvania's
regulation of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.
The report's authors -- UB institute director John P. Martin,
University of Wyoming professor Timothy J. Considine and
Pennsylvania State University professor emeritus Robert W. Watson
-- examined 2,988 violations, from nearly 4,000 natural gas wells,
processed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection (PADEP) from January 2008 through August 2011.
They found that 1,844 of the violations, or 62 percent, were
administrative and preventative in nature. The remaining 1,144
violations, or 38 percent, were environmental in nature. The
environmental violations were the result of 845 events, with 25
classified as "major" environmental events. The report defines
major environmental events as major site restoration failures,
serious contamination of local water supplies, major land spills,
blowouts, and venting and gas migration.
The authors found that the percentage of environmental
violations in relation to the number of wells drilled declined from
58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010. The number dropped to
26.5 percent during the first eight months of 2011. The report
suggests that Pennsylvania's regulatory approach has been effective
at maintaining a low probability of serious environmental events
and in reducing the frequency of environmental violations.
"This study presents a compelling case that state oversight of
oil and gas regulation has been effective," lead author Considine
said. "While prior research has anecdotally reviewed state
regulations, now we have comprehensive data that demonstrates,
without ambiguity, that state regulation coupled with improvements
in industry practices results in a low risk of an environmental
event occurring in shale development, and the risks continue to
diminish year after year."
The authors also analyzed how the violations and environmental
events that occurred in Pennsylvania would be dealt with by
emerging regulations, such as those under review in New York. They
found that the proposed regulatory framework in New York could help
avoid or mitigate the 25 major events identified in
"New York's current regulations would prevent or mitigate each
of the identified major environmental events that occurred in
Pennsylvania," Martin said. "It's important that states continue to
learn from the regulatory experience -- both strengths and
weaknesses -- of others."
Watson concludes, "Remedial actions taken by operators largely
mitigated the environmental impacts of environmental events. Only a
handful of events resulted in environmental impacts that have not
yet been mitigated."
Drafts of the report were reviewed by several individuals with
expertise in related areas, who provided comments to the authors.
* Andrew Hunter, a lecturer at Cornell University's School of
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
* Brigham McCown, a former U.S. Department of Transportation
executive and consultant with United Transportation Advisors.
* George Rusk, a regulatory specialist at Ecology and
* Scott Anderson, senior policy advisor with the Environmental
Defense Fund's Energy Program.
* Robert Jacobi, co-director of the Shale Resources and Society
Institute and longtime UB professor of geology.
Announced by UB on April 5, the Shale Resources and Society
Institute's goal is to provide accurate, research-based information
on the development of shale gas and other unconventional energy
sources. The institute conducts and disseminates peer-reviewed
research that can help guide policymakers on issues relating to
This is the first report produced by the institute. The work of
the institute was not funded or commissioned by external sources.
The entire report is available at http://www.srsi.buffalo.edu.
Bios of the report's authors are available here.