Monday, October 10, 2011

Natural gas industry talks how to make nice

The natural-gas industry is trying to improve its image in the wake of protests and voiced concerns from officials and other residents in the Eastern U.S. concerned that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been labeled as an environmental hazard. Last week, at a conference titled "Commitment to Excellence in Hydraulic Fracturing," the American Petroleum Institute and other industry groups to discussed how best to "court communities" that are new to drilling.

The industry is also burnishing its image through television commercials and magazine advertisements. Companies such as Exxon Mobil tout the industry's "rethinking" of gas drilling, the abundance of the resource and how clean it burns. Chesapeake Energy has partnered with Goodwill Industries to show how they are investing in local communities. Others attempt to show the softer side of gas drilling. And the American Natural Gas Association highlights how the industry could create American energy independence.

Mike Soraghan of Energy & Environment News reports on topics discussed at the conference in Pittsburgh, which included ways to prevent trucks from stopping up rural traffic, recycling wastewater, "basic housekeeping" of well pads and how to best explain to people that drilling occurs more than a mile below drinking water supplies. One API official talked about how companies have to get a "social license to operate" in rural communities now rife with gas drilling prospects.

Soraghan notes few environmental-group representatives attended, and those who were are skeptical that the words spoken by industry representatives will translate into actions. There's also concern the ideas discussed won't translate well to those actually working on the well pads. Soraghan reports that one engineer at the conference said the good practices presented at the conference were about more than "warm feelings and good publicity." The engineer said: "If everyone's comfortable with it, you can get your permits through faster. . . . We don't get pushback from management if (environmental protections) are really protective." (Read more)

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