Center for Responsible Shale Development Sets Performance Standards

Marcellus shale gas-drilling site along PA Route 87, Lycoming County. Photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli via Wikimedia Commons

Western Pennsylvania is an area rich in Marcellus shale, creating challenges for those concerned with the environmental implications associated with tapping this valuable resource.

Based in Pittsburgh, the Center for Responsible Shale Development has created 15 performance standards that call on companies to conduct the necessary steps to protect air, climate and water, and to manage waste.  When companies comply with these standards, communities are healthier and the environment is cleaner across the Appalachian Basin.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS 1 – 8 are designed to help with the goal of ensuring zero contamination of ground and surface waters.

  1. Comprehensive Wastewater Management
    Wastewater management is an important component of shale development. This standard requires operators to use only the best available treatment and disposal technologies when discharging wastewater, and an additional level of rigorous initial and ongoing testing while using any treatment and discharge facility.
  2. Maximize Water Recycling
    We require companies to maximize opportunities to recycle wastewater from drilling, fracturing and production.
  3. Eliminate Wastewater Pits at the Well Site
    This standard prohibits open wastewater pits and requires operators to use closed loop systems on well sites. Closed loop systems minimize the potential for contamination of the surface and subsurface waters and protects against potential spills.
  4. Maximize Impoundment Integrity
    Operators that use impoundments to contain wastewater should design, construct and manage them responsibly. This standard requires companies to double-line the impoundments, equip them with leak detection tools, and incorporate measures to protect wildlife.
  5. Subsurface Area of Review
    Know before you drill. Different geologies often require different strategies to prevent soil and groundwater contamination. Operators must conduct a comprehensive geologic risk analysis that covers the entire well – both vertical and horizontal portions – to identify, manage and avoid the risk of contamination.
  6. Monitor Water Sources
    Before, during, and for at least one year after a well is completed, operators must monitor the quality of the surrounding waters and aquifers.
  7. Casing and Cementing a Well
    Accurate, precise and thorough casing and cementing assures that what goes in and comes out of a well does not come in contact with ground or surface water.  This is often identified as one of the most critical actions operators must take to ensure well integrity.
  8. Planning and Monitoring a Well Pad
    A well pad must be designed to prevent drilling fluids from coming into contact with ground and/or surface waters. This standard requires primary AND secondary containment to capture spills, multiple barriers to manage erosion, emergency response planning and continuous well pad inspections. Proper planning helps prevent poor performance.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS 9 – 15 are designed to minimize impacts on air quality and climate.

  1. Reduced Emission Completions, Minimal Flaring and No Venting
    Natural gas is a valuable energy source. This standard is designed to prevent it from being wasted. It requires operators to make every effort to capture gas, prohibits venting, and requires operators to flare gas only when absolutely necessary.
  2. Flaring Requirements: 98% Destruction Efficiency
    In some instances (e.g. for employee safety) flaring is necessary. This standard requires that if flaring does occur operators must document the reasons and how it was closely managed and minimized.
  3. Minimize On-Site Engine Emissions
    This standard sets increasingly stringent requirements for reducing emissions for horizontal drilling rig engines and fracturing pump engines.
  4. Reduce Emissions from Compressors
    All compressor engines (whether new, purchased, replacement, reconstructed, or relocated) must reduce emissions and regularly change out equipment to keep emissions low.
  5. Limit Emissions from Storage Vessels
    Storage containers that emit above a threshold must install emission controls to reduce emissions by 95%.
  6. Leak Detection, Repair and Ongoing Maintenance
    Ongoing inspection and maintenance has been demonstrated to reduce emissions. Under this standard, operators are required to conduct weekly visual, auditory and olfactory checks and annual checks with advanced instruments. If a leak is detected, operators must quickly fix it.
  7. Water Trucks
    95% of trucks used to transport water must meet the EPA’s Final Emission Standard for 2007; and there should be no unnecessary idling.

Media Contact:
Darice Nagy
814-771-0923  /

These explanations do not provide all technical details included within each standard. The intent of this summary is to provide an explanation of the intent of each standard. For a copy of the 15 Performance Standards, please follow this link (CRSD’s Performance Standards). The Guidance for Auditors (CRSD’s Guidance for Auditors) provides further explanation of what auditors look for in evaluating conformance with the Standards.

Additionally, CRSD conducts an annual review of the 15 Performance Standards with applicable state and federal regulations. Please follow this link to review our Regulatory Comparison Table