It was serendipitous that I read about a collaboration between environmentalists and unconventional gas drillers while attending Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership’s conference on the nexus of energy, food and water. The goal of the gathering was to engage the business community in a conversation on how to build business value by embedding sustainability.
I was tweeting about Neil Hawkins’ call for collaboration when a Google alert about the new center popped up. Hawkins is Vice President of Sustainability and Environment, Health & Safety for the Dow Chemical Company.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development is breaking down silos. The participating partners include Chevron, CONSOL Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, EQT Corp., Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Shell and William Penn Foundation.
Robert Vagt, President of the Heinz Endowments, said in a statement:
CSSD is the result of an unprecedented effort that brought together a group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, working to create responsible performance standards and a rigorous, third‐party evaluation process for shale gas operations. This process has demonstrated for us that industry and environmental organizations, working together, can identify shared values and find common ground on standards that are environmentally protective.
Bruce Niemeyer, President of Chevron Appalachia, added:
Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly. Throughout the development of CSSD, the collaborative effort of environmental organizations, foundations and energy companies has been the key to achieving consensus on regional performance standards.
Energy companies seeking certification must meet 15 performance standards that address air quality, water resources and climate. The data-driven performance measures will build trust and break through the myths and unfounded fears.
Indeed, the Washington Post editorialized:
Last week brought a heartening breakthrough in the war over fracking: A handful of major green groups and big drillers agreed on environmental standards… These new rules are a large step toward striking the right balance, and everyone involved deserves credit.
But not all environmentalists are singing “Kumbaya.” Deb Nardone, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign Director, dismissed the agreement as “akin to slapping a band aid on a gaping wound.” In a statement, Nardone declared:
The majority of natural gas must stay in the ground if we want any chance of avoiding climate disaster.
That makes no fracking sense says the Post:
The center provides a model for environmental groups, too. They advance their cause much further when they accept that the country is fracking and push for sound regulation, instead of unrealistically insisting that all that natural gas stay in the ground.
Truth be told, some ‘fracktivists’ are more interested in mobilizing around an issue than collaborating on solutions because it’s good for business.