Interview with Matt Pitzeralla
Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Range Resources
Recently Matt Pitzeralla from Range Resources was the guest on the radio show, “The Marcellus Shale and You”. Here are three questions from listeners that didn’t make it on the air. In the following, Matt discusses local vs. federal regulations, the film “Gasland”, and finally how the Marcellus Shale boom is being noted by other countries who may also be facing a potential natural gas industry.
The states have been the primary regulators of the industry since the inception of regulation many decades ago. Natural gas development is highly regulated. Before a well is even drilled, thousands of pages of documentation are typically filed and submitted to state regulators for review and approval. Many aspects must be stamped by a professional engineer. Often times there are other state regulatory agencies involved.
For instance, in Pennsylvania, in addition to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also have various levels of regulatory oversight. Attached is a flow chart published by the Pittsburgh Business Times that chronicles some of the regulations and steps we must follow in Pennsylvania.
In addition to comprehensive state laws, various aspects of natural gas development, either directly with Range or other service companies, are subject to the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Federal Worker’s Right to Know Act, the Federal Dam Safety Law, and others through state regulatory statutes. All of our locations are regularly inspected by industry and regulatory officials.
There are more inspectors per rig in Pennsylvania than almost anywhere else in the nation. There are also several consortiums of regulatory agencies that ensure minimum standards across the United States and the sharing of best practices that match evolving technologies. This includes the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which is made up of state regulators, academics, conservation and environmental groups, citizens, the industry, and input from the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The IOGCC then partners with other sub groups to produce state and federal regulatory reviews. For instance, in partnership with the Groundwater Protection Council the IOGCC created the Shale Gas Primer, and in concert with the US EPA they conducted an analysis of Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas regulations. These were found to be deserving of special merit and to be among the best in the nation. That report can be found at: http://goo.gl/tXniV .
President Obama also tasked US Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu to create an advisory commission to determine the best means of developing natural gas. According to former Pennsylvania DEP Secretary and former top environmental aide to President Clinton, the commission indicated that many of the national recommendations they made were based on practices in Pennsylvania.
In short, I would personally prefer regulators who live in our communities and have spent their lives regulating this industry, instead of starting from scratch with regulators in Washington DC. With all due respect to the tremendous job federal regulators do, they were the primary regulators for the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Whenever people ask me about Marcellus Shale (I’m in the industry) they always go right to the image from Gasland of a man setting his tap water on fire. This image has seemed to taken root, and unfortunately has gotten ahead of the debate. What do you think about the need to get ahead of images such as lighting tap water that have stuck in people’s heads?
Roy in Greentree
We’re not the first, nor will we be the last industry to fall victim to a misleading documentary. I could go on at length about that film, including the fact that state regulators have repeatedly stated that the flaming faucet scene is naturally occurring and that their repeated investigations determined that it had nothing to do with oil or gas drilling (http://goo.gl/fl3ji); or the fact that the filmmaker himself acknowledged that he had prior knowledge that regulators had found gas in the water in that area for decades before oil or gas drilling ( http://goo.gl/LwjmO). Watch the filmmaker in his own words admit his efforts to ignore prior knowledge of pre-existing methane in the water.
All this aside, for decades this industry has been content with keeping a low profile, keeping our heads down, and waiting for the wave to pass. Those days are long gone.
Ultimately we will be better for it. We need to engage, communicate, be transparent, accessible and accountable. People are smart and when they have the facts they can make informed decisions. Facts and science are on our side and when people have that information, they very quickly become comfortable with our industry.
Like almost everything else, American ingenuity has unlocked this resource – just like drilling for oil, the microprocessor, etc. There is now a race to unlock shale basins – or source rocks – all across the globe. The US has about a 20 year head start, but the gap may close over the next decade, which is why it’s critical for us to get it right and responsibly develop our resources now. They’re all shales, but not “Marcellus” shale, which is named for Marcellus, New York where the outcrop of the rock was first found. Others include the Barnett, Haynesville, Woodford, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Utica, and many more. It will take hundreds of years to develop these resources.
The Marcellus alone, based on today’s technologies and information will last for generations. That doesn’t include the shale layers above and below the Marcellus here in Pennsylvania that can produce gas. Plus, that model assumes that scientists and engineers won’t get better, which they will. So it’s hard to say how much gas is there for certain or how many decades it will take to fully develop it.
For a map of North American basins click here: http://goo.gl/uFcDo or for a global estimated map click here: http://goo.gl/MZr4Y
Worldwide natural gas reserves actually exceed worldwide oil reserves, plus it’s far cleaner to burn with about a quarter of the carbon emissions and virtually zero particulate emissions. Because of this abundance, the Federal Energy Information Administration, as well as international agencies, predicts that natural gas will be the leading source of energy over at least the next 40 years.
This is why Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to be an international leader in the development of the energy source of the future. That’s why it’s critical for everyone to be on the same page – all stakeholders: the industry, policy makers, private citizens, business, regulators, environmental and conservation groups and others–To ensure this resource is responsibly developed, but not burdened with excessive taxation or regulation.
Let the companies who do it right, do their work, and kick out the ones who don’t.