Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"One if by Air, Two if by Water..."

The natural gas industry has yet another environmental concern to face.  Buffeted by concerns over water, from the impact of hydraulic fracturing, to the amount of water consumed to the treatment of wastewater, the industry now has to address air quality.

The small town of DISH, TX (the town formerly known as Clark, but which sold its name to DISH TV several years ago) last night passed a moratorium on new natural gas activities for 90 days in response to air quality tests that showed high levels of benzene from two of 94 test sites around the town (more detail on ordinance). 

DISH is in the heart of the Barnett Shale and is home to a fair amount of natural gas infrastructure, including a number of compressor stations and pipeline intersections.  The mayor of DISH has been outspoken on this issue for a while and will attract lots of attention with this ordinance. 

Given the speed at which information turned into misinformation about the supposed impacts to groundwater in the Marcellus Shale, the industry needs to be very careful and responsive.  Environmentalists would love nothing more than another juicy issue to devour. 

Air quality issues from drilling and processing equipment can be addressed much more easily than water issues, but it is yet another distraction requiring action for the industry.  Again, how the industry responds will be important to the future development of natural gas in the U.S.  If the industry buries its head in the sand and puts more money into PR than real solutions, it is going to get its a** kicked.  That won't be good for anybody.

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