Shale gas, the fuel of the future unearths problems of the past
Shale gas regulation has trailed private sector exploration and development and publicopinion. At the same time, early-stage state regulation approaches have diverged (mostnotably in the attitude towards Marcellus Shale projects in New York and Pennsylvania)and many wildcat developers have come and gone before the development of comprehensive legislation. This has caused environmental degradation, includingwatershed pollution through spills, local air pollution through truck and machine traffic aswell as underground particle escape, and land subsidence through poor well planning. Ithas also raised a number of legal questions around land control, mineral rights, and jurisdictional capacity to govern and regulate. It is becoming evident that irresponsiblemanagement of these early shale plays are fouling public opinion and provoking regulatoryconstraints to future development, limiting the economic development and energy securitypotential of shale gas and oil. Few people doubt the potential of shale if developedresponsibly. Yet the timeframe that developers and regulators have to get the process rightis shrinking and states and local governments are passing laws that will shape the makeupof the industry for years to come.New York State has taken the most aggressive stance against shale development, placinga moratorium on all drilling while officials review the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This has left Pennsylvania as the state that has gained themost from shale gas development but also has been most susceptible to the inherent risksand challenges in the young industry. Other states in the Marcellus Shale play, includingOhio, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, have less to gain from smaller reserves intheir territories, but nonetheless are involved in negotiations around watersheds andenvironmental questions of regional importance.