Shale Development Certification Program Opens Its Doors

In March 2013, a group of philanthropic foundations, environmental organizations and energy companies came together to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)

By Angela Godwin, Chief Editor

In March 2013, a group of philanthropic foundations, environmental organizations and energy companies came together to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), an organization aimed at promoting responsible development of shale gas resources in the Appalachian region. Its guiding belief is that safe, sustainable shale development is achievable -- and its doors are now open.

CSSD program provides performance standard certifications for shale developers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It has established 15 initial performance standards -- including several that pertain directly to protection of surface and groundwater. Through CSSD certification, shale developers can demonstrate -- and get recognition for -- excellence in environmental performance, setting a new, higher bar for other operators to meet.

The Center has named Susan Packard LeGros its executive director. She joins CSSD from Philadelphia-based law firm Stevens & Lee, where she concentrated her practice on environmental, natural resources and regulatory issues.

"CSSD's work has already served as a model for how environmental organizations and energy companies can work together toward shared goals," said LeGros. "This is one of the most exciting challenges of my career to date -- to harness the talents, resources and desire on the part of leading environmental groups and energy companies to ensure prudent development of shale gas resources."

After nearly a year of preparation, CSSD is ready to begin reviewing applications for certification. To do this, it has hired testing, inspection and certification auditor Bureau Veritas. Interested companies should apply directly to CSSD, which then works with the audit team and company representatives to cover the analysis process, site visits, interviews and other information-gathering activities.

The Center's list of partners includes: the 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 (PennFuture); Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Shell; and the William Penn Foundation.

If you're surprised to see the Environmental Defense Fund on that list, you're not alone. EDF's participation in CSSD drew criticism from some of its green cousins, including Earthworks and Greenpeace, among others. They expressed their disappointment in a group letter to EDF President Fred Krupp: "Those of us concerned with charting a rational and sustainable energy policy for the United States were disheartened to see the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) lend its name and support to an entity called the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD). The very use of the word sustainable in the name is misleading, because there is nothing sustainable about shale oil or shale gas."

The groups stated that federal regulation was the only way to ensure public health and accused EDF of "greenwashing" CSSD's environmental standards.

In fact, EDF acknowledged that CSSD is not a substitute for regulation -- but recognized that having voluntary standards has value too. "The hope is to make certification the de facto standard and that communities will insist on having only center-approved drilling and pipeline companies." (Solutions, Summer 2013)

EDF wisely pointed out that if CSSD can show that industry leaders can produce shale gas safely and responsibly, it "could help build a powerful coalition of producers, environmentalists and communities, all in favor of getting the rules right."

For more information on CSSD, visit sustainableshale.org.

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