PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a collaboration of environmental organizations and energy companies, has taken the next step in its venture to encourage the responsible development of shale gas resources in the Appalachian region.
The center announced Jan. 21 it has developed an independent third-party certification process, hired a certification auditor, and the verification program is now accepting applicants.
The center was formed by a group of environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and energy companies to certify performance standards for shale development.
It is funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies.
The CSSD has established 15 initial performance standards in an effort to protect the land, water and air in the area around shale drilling.
Andrew Place, interim director, said the group is important for landowners because it ensures air and water standards created by the group are followed.
He said the standards were developed by drillers, environmental groups and community representatives.
“This has been a collaborative effort. These standards are a broad spectrum of partners working together to develop standards,” said Place. Place, a sheep and cattle farmer who said he himself is dependent on spring water for his livestock and home, emphasized how important it is for the land, water and air to be protected. His farm is surrounded by three shale gas pads.
The CSSD hired Bureau Veritas, who provides independent testing, inspection and certification services internationally, as its initial independent auditor. All producers operating in the Appalachian region are eligible to apply at this time.
Bureau Veritas will be checking paperwork, but will also have boots on the ground to ensure certification standards are being met.
Certification will be based on the center’s 15 initial performance standards. Shale companies can seek certifications in air and climate; water and waste; or both.
Some of the standards include such practices as requiring drilling operators look at the risks to individual water supplies surrounding each pad. They must look at the individual well circumstances and consider what could go wrong.
Standards will also require water supplies be tested after the drilling and fracking is completed.
Auditors will evaluate the applicant’s operations to the standards that are specific to the certification a company chooses. Evaluations are expected to take three to six months, with a summary of a completed audit made accessible on CSSD’s website.
“Through the accreditation and selection of our first auditing firm, Bureau Veritas, and the launch of our certification and verification process, we begin the real work of fulfilling the promise of CSSD’s performance standards that we introduced in March of 2013,” said Place.
In practice, the audit process will center on a comprehensive auditor checklist that details each facet of operations that will be evaluated.
CSSD’s participants are: Benedum Foundation; Chevron; Clean Air Task Force; CONSOL Energy; Environmental Defense Fund; EQT Corporation; Group Against Smog and Pollution; Heinz Endowments; Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future; Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Shell; and the William Penn Foundation.