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Interagency Collaboration to Address Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Drilling

April 23, 2013 - 12:06pm


Washington, DC — A memorandum of understanding  to perform collaborative research related to airborne emissions and air quality at natural gas drilling sites has been signed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The research supports DOE’s goal of enhancing America’s energy security by contributing to the health and safety of workers in the nation’s energy sector.

As part of a multiagency team, NIOSH and NETL will identify and monitor the potential impact of shale gas production on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, improving scientific understanding of the pollutants that contribute to regional air quality hazards. The research will enable the development of modeling tools to predict and quantify potential risks associated with shale gas reserves that require hydraulic fracturing and assist researchers in analyzing greenhouse gas lifecycle emissions. It will also provide a basis for local, regional, state, and federal decision-makers to take positive actions to improve air quality and identify opportunities to reduce emissions from shale gas development and operations.

“NETL’s partnership with NIOSH further demonstrates our commitment to science-based environmental stewardship and will significantly strengthen the capabilities of our multiagency environmental assessment team,” said NETL Director Anthony Cugini. He noted that the collaboration can help ensure that gas development proceeds at a rate that protects our environment, while ensuring an adequate domestic gas supply.

NIOSH will join a cross-functional team of scientists from three other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and Environmental Protection Agency. Established through an executive order, the Multi-Agency Collaboration on Unconventional Oil and Gas Research is chartered to provide a multidisciplinary approach to evaluating health and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction. The collaboration will utilize the core competencies of each agency to improve scientific understanding of the rate of generation and fate of air pollutants that contribute to regional air quality hazards and to evaluate the potential cumulative impacts of exposure on human health.