PITTSBURGH (AP) - A hotly debated partnership between major oil and gas companies and some environmental groups moved forward Tuesday, almost a year after it was first announced.
The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale said in a release that it is now accepting applications for a program that aims to enforce tough but voluntary new standards for fracking and other related activities in the Northeast. The CSSD said it has hired Bureau Veritas, a French global testing and inspection firm, to review applications and compliance by drillers.
The Environmental Defense Fund, PennFuture and some other prominent environmental groups are part of CSSD, but others - such as the Sierra Club - have criticized the effort, saying it isn't meaningful and that a voluntary program is no substitute for tough state or federal rules.
But some energy companies, such as Chesapeake Energy, have suggested that there's no need to go beyond existing state regulations, and have said they won't join or support CSSD.
The boom in Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio has generated tens of billions of dollars, and reduced energy bills and imports. But it's also led to significant concerns and protests over air and water pollution.
Andrew Place, who has been the CSSD's interim director, welcomed the scrutiny.
"The substance is in the breadth and depth that we're bringing to the oversight" of the industry, he said, calling Bureau Veritas - which was founded in 1828 - "the gold standard" for independent oversight.
Place, who works for EQT Corp., a Pittsburgh energy company, said that the CSSD review will require testing of nearby water wells before and after drilling and noted that the CSSD's new director, Susan LeGros, has extensive experience not only as an environmental lawyer in Philadelphia, but as a former Environmental Protection Agency staff member.