Box 15. Case Study: Meth Education Program

Box 15. Case Study: Meth Education Program

Box 15. Case Study: Meth Education Program 

In October 2006, Marathon Oil Company launched an educational awareness program intended to address the methamphetamines (meth) crisis taking place in Wyoming. Although the problem was not unique to Wyoming, Governor Freudenthal had expressed concern, citing it as one of the top social issues in the state. 1 With its long history in Wyoming, Marathon had not only witnessed the issue first hand, but was also in a unique position to do something about it. The company had found that the high incidence of meth use had become a concern for hiring and maintaining contractors for all operators in the area. In some locations, the issue had even begun to affect the company’s operations because its contractors were experiencing failed pre-employment drug testing, an increase in absenteeism, and shortages in the local workforce, leading to project delays. Marathon was also hearing that families, especially those with teenagers, were concerned about moving into the area for oil and gas industry jobs.

In response, Marathon designed an educational awareness program intended to start a discussion among its employees about the dangers of meth. After a weeklong presentation series attended by nearly 350 Marathon employees and contractors, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many employees commented that their families, friends, and neighbors needed to see it as well in order to initiate an open community dialogue about the issue.

Amy Mifflin was manager of Marathon’s corporate social responsibility program when she took on the question of whether to bring the awareness program to the larger community. She was initially met with in-house skepticism about taking on an issue as significant as meth addiction that was seemingly unrelated to oil and gas development. After discussing the project internally to define its parameters, the company agreed on the value of an awareness-raising campaign that would serve as a resource to employees, their families, and potential employees, as well as build a strong relationship with the local community.

The first community workshop included a presentation by health, environment, and safety expert Eddie Hill about the dangers of meth; information from the local sheriff’s office and the mayor; and testimonies from people who had been directly affected by meth. According to Mifflin, the success of the initial workshops and subsequent presentations in other communities transformed many company skeptics into champions. For a relatively small investment, the program helped strengthen community relationships and build a positive reputation for the company. 

Brett Martin, a certified addictions practitioner, participated in the outreach and education campaign when it came to his hometown of Cody. He gave a presentation at the Marathon project’s events in Cody and on the nearby Wind River Reservation. In his role as an addictions counselor, he often speaks to audiences about his own struggle with meth addiction and his pathway to recovery. Due to Marathon’s reputation and standing in the area, he observed that the company was able to reach a larger and more diverse audience than the local health department could. Hundreds of people attended the presentation, including those in key leadership roles, such as city councilors, commissioners, and local mayors. The presentation was well received in the community and people even brought their families to see it—which, Martin said, indicated that the Marathon project was able to transcend the usual stigma. “It helped to show that we can talk about this and it doesn’t have to be about shame,” he said. “Marathon found a way to allow people to talk about it, to say ‘we’re all in this together.’”

Marathon’s meth education and awareness campaign ran from 2006–2009, reaching an estimated 75,000 people in 11 states. It was delivered free of charge at high schools and town community centers. There were workshops with state health departments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The company also filmed the presentation, producing a video for each community and distributing it free of charge. By the time the campaign was winding down, Mifflin was receiving requests from other oil and gas companies that wanted to do similar projects in communities where they were operating.

Asked about advice she might offer to others confronting similar challenges, Mifflin encouraged companies to engage in conversations with communities, even difficult ones. “It starts to alleviate tension with private sector industries, such as oil and gas,” she said, “and people begin to see you as an advocate for collaboration and actively engaged in solving the problem.”  

For companies considering undertaking a similar outreach project, Martin suggests finding ways to support continued conversations in affected communities. For example, the company could offer regular meeting space and resources for developing outreach materials to those who are inspired by the project and want to keep the conversation going.

For more information, contact Amy Mifflin at amy@global-collaborations.com. See below for a short video clip with an overview of the program, accessed November 30, 2014

Notes:

  1. Amy Mifflin (Global Collaborations, Inc.), interview by Erica Bucki and Dana Goodson, June 2014.

Box 14. Case Study: A Solution in Water Sourcing

Box 14. Case Study: A Solution in Water Sourcing

Box 14. Case Study: A Solution in Water Sourcing

At its sites in the Fayetteville Shale play in Arkansas, Chesapeake Energy had been purchasing most of its water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing from private sources and trucking it to the well pads. While this process was working for the company, the truck traffic was causing damage to local roads. In 2008, therefore, Chesapeake decided to look into new water supply sources. The company found that by creating what is essentially a holding lake for the overflow from the Little Red River, it could cut down on some of its trucking needs.

Under the system the company developed, water is pumped from the river to the holding lake and transferred into a gravity-fed pipeline that traverses over 40,000 feet, with fourteen hydrants positioned at crossroads where the water can be pumped into trucks. The piping system reduces the air quality impact and safety concerns of trucking, and serves a dual purpose as a source of water for local fire departments. The project was approved to extract a limit of 1,550 acre-feet of water annually. 1

Although water is only diverted from the river during periods of high flow, as mandated by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC), there were local concerns about how this project would affect the Little Red River’s ecosystem. The river is home to a trout population prized by anglers, so Chesapeake turned to the local chapter of Trout Unlimited for input on the project.

As a result of this collaborative effort, various methods were identified to protect the wildlife in the river—for example, the intake pipe is oriented to face upstream and is covered with a metal mesh to prevent harm to the fish. 2 The company has also instituted monitoring of water quality and both game and nongame fish species in the reach of river surrounding the intake. Working with the community, Chesapeake was able to identify and implement measures to protect the river’s wildlife and its recreational and scenic values to the community.

Notes:

  1. National Energy Technology Laboratory, “Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer,” prepared for U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, April 2009, 65.
  2. Chesapeake Energy, “A River Runs Through It: Environmentally Sensitive Operations in the Natural State,” Spring 2008, 2.

Box 9. Case Study:  Driver Safety — Peru Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline

Box 9. Case Study:  Driver Safety — Peru Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline

Box 9. Case Study:  Driver Safety — Peru Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline 1

Peru, home to extremely challenging terrain for drivers, has the third-highest traffic mortality rate in the world (21.5 casualties per 1,000 inhabitants). 2 During the installation of a 408-kilometer liquefied natural gas pipeline, the company Peru Liquefied Natural Gas (PLNG) instituted a program to achieve driver safety.

Over the course of the project, a variety of stakeholders, including PLNG, government officials, drivers, and community members all contributed to the effort — with monthly assessment meetings, ongoing driver safety programs, community road safety workshops, reporting of concerns by both drivers and the community, and a driver incentive program that rewarded incident-free on-time delivery.

Drivers delivering pipes and equipment to the project traveled approximately 69 million kilometers during the two-year installation (2008 – 2010) — often navigating unpaved roads affected by heavy rains, snow, and freezing temperatures — from sea level to altitudes as high as 4,900 meters. Despite these challenges, with very careful attention to vehicular safety, incidents during the entire installation averaged 2.82 per 1,000,000 kilometers driven, exceeding the program’s target of 7.53; and, in 2012, there were no road accidents related to the pipeline work at all.

Much of the project’s success was due to ongoing evaluation and adaptation, as each incident was studied and underlying causes determined.  Other elements contributing to the success of the program included:

  • Instituting a company safety accountability framework to support the safety program
  • Implementing a system of management controls, including:
    • Road risk maps highlighting potential hazards such as heavy pedestrian traffic, winding roads, and open trenches were developed and updated regularly. Drivers were instructed on how to use these, and electronic versions were synced with the vehicle’s GPS.
    • Speed controls were initiated, such as posted signage, vehicular GPS recording, and use of real-time speed radar guns by road supervisors.
    • Drivers were regularly monitored for blood alcohol levels (with a zero tolerance standard) and for signs of altitude impairment. Some of the monitoring for speed and driver condition took place at five strategically located checkpoints along the route. Vehicles and loads were also inspected, and driver services were provided.
  • Working with the community to raise awareness of safe driving practices.
  • Focusing on improving the health and safety of drivers. For example, drivers were educated on appropriate nutrition and water intake for high-altitude driving.
  • Holding third-party contractors to the same standards, with this requirement included in the procurement bidding process.
  • Providing incentives for deliveries without incident.

Notes:

  1. Summary of International Finance Corporation (IFC), “Lessons of Experience: Peru LNG: A Focus on Continuous Improvement” (No. 3, March 2013).
  2. IFC, p. 4.

Box 4. Case Study from the Mining Industry: The Good Neighbor Agreement

Box 4. Case Study from the Mining Industry: The Good Neighbor Agreement

Box 4. Case Study from the Mining Industry: The Good Neighbor Agreement

In 2000, when Stillwater Mining Company began making plans to expand their mining operations in two Montana counties, several environmental NGOs saw an opportunity to engage with the company about protecting the area’s natural resources. During the hearing on the initial draft of the expansion permit, NGO representatives raised questions about its environmental implications. The groups subsequently entered into negotiations with the mining company on how to resolve these issues before the permit was finalized. The result of their negotiations was the creation of the 2000 Good Neighbor Agreement, 1 a legally binding document. The purpose of the agreement is to protect the area’s quality of life while providing for responsible economic development.

Designed to avoid triggering state government regulatory action on water quality, the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) establishes water quality requirements that exceed those required by the state. Three citizens’ committees and a set of projects were established to implement the objectives outlined in the agreement. As part of the agreement, an independent third-party consultant provides the citizen councils with technical assistance. The consultant costs, as well as other expenses of implementing the agreement, are covered by Stillwater.

One citizen committee focuses on engaging local residents in water quality monitoring for the agreement in the Stillwater, Boulder, and East Boulder Rivers. 2 Other initiatives of the GNA have increased public safety and decreased air pollution by establishing traffic restrictions and providing for carpooling, as well as a busing program for miners. On an annual basis, the technology committee considers any emerging best practices in the mining industry that could be applied to either of the mines.

The company’s transparency about its operations, along with citizen participation in monitoring activities, has fostered an environment of trust. 3 Maintaining an ongoing relationship has been important for stakeholders in the GNA because it has allowed for open dialogue and development of amendments to the agreement as needed. For example, the busing agreement originally stated that Stillwater was permitted only 35 private vehicles on the road per day. Nine years later, stakeholders renegotiated the traffic provisions to accommodate the changing operational needs of the mine while keeping traffic to a minimum.

In its newsletter commemorating the tenth anniversary of the GNA, the Northern Plains Resource Council, one of the original NGO parties to the agreement, stated that the GNA “has become a template for resolving disputes and promoting positive interaction in the permitting and development of natural resources.” 4

For more information, contact the Northern Plains Resource Council, (406) 248 1154, info@northernplains.org.

Notes:

  1. Good Neighbor Agreement Between Stillwater Mining Company and Northern Plains Resource Council, Cottonwood Resource Council, and Stillwater Protective Association (originally signed May 8, 2000; amended November 11, 2009).
  2. Northern Plains Resource Council, “Good Neighbor Agreement: A Unique Solution for Local Protection,” accessed December 9, 2014.
  3. Northern Plains Resource Council, “10th Anniversary Good Neighbor Agreement Newsletter,” 1, accessed December 9, 2014.
  4. Northern Plains Resource Council, “10th Anniversary,” 1.

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

What resources can provide further information?

SAFETY

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

Safety

Most excavation incidents occur when an entity other than the operator is digging near pipelines, and these incidents lead to the largest number of personal injuries and fatalities. Excavation risks therefore need to be managed by multiple stakeholders — including operators, regulators, municipal planners, property owners, and private excavators.

Pipeline operators:  Damage to pipelines due to excavation has been decreasing in recent years, thanks to one-call centers, or “call before you dig” phone banks. Pipeline markers are also important in preventing excavation damage, but they are not exact indicators of pipeline locations, so contacting a one-call center is still necessary before excavation begins.

Pipeline companies are using improved technology and detection techniques, such as handheld infrared scanners, to address potential problems due to corrosion or pipeline defects. 1 Some experts have recommended more frequent replacement of aging pipelines to prevent potential problems and that all pipelines, including rural gathering lines, be regulated by OPS.

OPS requires operators to conduct public awareness programs regarding pipeline safety. Activities include disseminating materials on the use of one-call centers; communicating with stakeholders on pipeline locations and the detection of any leaks; and trainings for first responders. 2

Local governments:  While local governments traditionally have jurisdiction over land use, they have infrequently addressed pipeline issues, or have done so in the absence of risk- or site-based data. 3 Following several major pipeline incidents in 2004, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) recommended that the federal government provide risk-based guidance on land use near pipelines. 4, 5 As a result, the Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) was created under OPS to provide guidance to local communities, pipeline operators, property developers/owners, and real estate commissions. These guidelines include siting considerations; width of pipeline corridors and easements; appropriate land use, human activities, and structures in the vicinity of the easement; setbacks to protect people and property; and model ordinances. The guidelines were developed for transmission pipelines only and are not mandatory. 6

Therefore, in terms of considerations for improving pipeline safety, local planning commissions could make risk-based determinations on the above considerations according to the needs of their communities. They could also include pipeline locations on local plats and planning documents. Local governments could require real estate transactions to disclose pipelines within 600 feet of the property line. 7

Property owners and private excavators:  Prior to conducting excavation activities, it is important to check for pipeline markers and make use of one-call centers to determine the exact location of any pipelines on or near the property.

Notes:

  1. Pennsylvania State University Extension Agency, http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/natural-gas/publications/negotiating-pipeline-rights-of-way-in-pennsylvania.
  2. INGAA, “How Are Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines Regulated?” (2014), http://www.ingaa.org/cms/4923.aspx.
  3. The Transportation Research Board, “Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach” (Special Report 281, Washington, DC, 2004), viii, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/sr/sr281.pdf.
  4. Office of Pipeline Safety, “Building Safe Communities:  Pipeline Risk and Its Application to Local Development Decisions” (October, 2010), http://pstrust.org/docs/PIPA-PipelineRiskReport-Final-20101021.pdf.
  5. The Transportation Research Board, “Transmission Pipelines and Land Use: A Risk-Informed Approach” (Special Report 281, Washington, DC, 2004), http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/sr/sr281.pdf.
  6. Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance, “Partnering to Further Enhance Pipeline Safety in Communities through Risk-Informed Land-Plan Use:  Final Report of Recommended Practices” (November 2010), http://www.ingaa.org/File.aspx?id=11683.
  7. Municipal Research and Services Center, last updated November 3, 2014, http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/pubsafe/pipesafety.aspx.

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

Appendix E: Pipelines—Transporting Shale Gas to Markets

What health considerations are there?

SAFETY

Pipelines carry hazardous materials and therefore entail safety risks. Typically, natural gas pipeline accidents that cause explosions and/or fires are most frequently due to excavation and pipeline corrosion or defects. 1 According to PHMSA, from 2004 to 2013, the ten-year incident average for natural gas pipelines was as follows: 117 incidents on transmission lines; 16 on gathering lines (rural gathering lines do not require incident reporting) 2; and 137 on distribution lines. 3

Notes:

  1. U.S. Department of Transportation, “The State of the National Pipeline Infrastructure” (2011).
  2. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), “Pipeline Incidents by System Type,” data as of 11/21/14.
  3. Incidents that are recorded by OPS involve a release of gas that results in death or in-patient hospitalization, and/or property damage of $50,000 or more. (PHMSA, “Reporting Criteria as of 2011,” March 2011.)

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES

In addition to making an effort to restore the land as close as possible to its original state per the API guidelines, the company can maintain a dialogue with local officials and community members to get their input during the decommissioning process. It can anticipate safety and environmental risks that could arise from the site and strive to reduce or eliminate those risks. The API guidelines recommend adopting a “consistent and forward-looking focus on safety and the environment.” 1

STATE OFFICIALS

State officials have a role in ensuring that wells are properly plugged and abandoned. At this stage, any surface use agreements that were signed prior to site development can help to guide the site restoration.

LANDOWNERS

Property owners can work with the operator to make sure that the site is properly restored to the specifications in the surface use agreement.

Notes:

  1. API, “Community Engagement Guidelines,” 9.

What health considerations are there?

What health considerations are there?

Air & Water Quality and Safety

If wells are not properly sealed when they are abandoned, they can pose a safety risk to residents and livestock, as well as air and water quality risks, given that contaminants could be released into the air or migrate to ground and surface waters. When this has been suspected of occurring, it has been linked to old, historically abandoned sites (orphaned wells). A 2013 study conducted in New York found that three-fourths of the abandoned oil and gas wells had never been plugged. 1 The National Petroleum Council also acknowledged the problem nationwide in a 2011 working paper. 2 Furthermore, a 2014 study of 19 abandoned wells in Pennsylvania – some dating back to the 19th century – found that not only were most of them unplugged, but both plugged and unplugged wells were also leaking methane. Extrapolating the amount released from the wells under study, the researchers estimated that such abandoned wells could be responsible for 4%-7% of the state’s methane emissions in 2010. 3   

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, has been studying the problem of orphaned wells and making recommendations to the states, which are ultimately responsible for locating and plugging the wells. As of 2007, the states had identified about 60,000 such wells, with potentially 90,000 more yet to be located. 4 The IOGCC concluded that while the states have improved their response to the problem, funding remains an issue. 5 The IOGCC therefore recommended that wells presenting the greatest safety risks be prioritized and urged states and industry to collaborate in finding creative solutions. 6  

Notes:

  1. R. E. Bishop, “Historical Analysis of Oil and Gas Well Plugging in New York: Is the Regulatory System Working?New Solutions 23, no. 1 (2013), 113- 114.
  2. National Petroleum Council, Plugging and Abandoning Oil and Gas Wells (2011).
  3. Mary Kang, Cynthia M. Kanno, Matthew C. Reid, Xin Zhang, Denise L. Mauzerall, Michael A. Celia, Yuheng Chen, and Tullis C. Onstott, “Direct Measurements of Methane Emissions from Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells in Pennsylvania,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111,  no. 51 (December 23, 2014), 18173-18174.
  4. Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), Protecting Our Country’s Resources: The StatesCase (2007), 3.
  5. IOGCC, Protecting Our Country’s Resources, 16-17.
  6. IOGCC, Protecting Our Country’s Resources, 17.

What resources can provide further information?

What resources can provide further information?

Safety

A centralized production facility (CPF). Photo provided by Shell Oil Company.

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

Industry Representatives

Air Quality & Safety

In 2011, the Shale Gas Roundtable, a multi-stakeholder group of leaders in Pennsylvania, convened to consider ways to promote effective and responsible oil and gas development in the state. One of the roundtable’s recommendations is to consider building pipelines to transport water to and from the well site (see Box 14. Case Study:  A Solution in Water Sourcing). 1 It is also important to consider, however, the issues raised by pipeline construction (for more on pipelines, see Appendix E). Furthermore, operators could also work with other companies in the region, as well as state and local authorities, to identify locations for centralized processing facilities and infrastructure that would optimize transport routes while reducing surface disturbance and traffic. 2

Notes:

  1. University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics, “Shale Gas Roundtable:  Deliberations, Findings, and Recommendations” (August 2013): 10.
  2. University of Pittsburgh, 12.

What health considerations are there?

What health considerations are there?

Safety

Incidents involving production infrastructure and facilities

The production of shale oil and gas involves other infrastructure in addition to that found at the well site, such as pipelines (see Appendix E), processing plants, and compressor stations. Some communities have been concerned that methane leaks, releases of other airborne toxins, fires, and explosions could occur at these facilities, many of which are situated close to large population areas. In 2013, for example, dramatic floods affected oil and gas infrastructure in Colorado, releasing oil and produced water into the environment. Post-flooding monitoring concluded, however, that the volume of floodwater diluted the releases to the point that they were unlikely to pose a public health concern. 1

Can shale development operations cause earthquakes?

As discussed above, shale development operations require the disposal of a large quantity of wastewater, which is often injected into underground wells (or injection wells). Although it has long been known that certain human activities—such as underground injection, oil and gas extraction, mining, and geothermal projects—can lead to induced seismicity, 2 the magnitude of these earthquakes was thought to be too minor to pose a risk to people or property.

Since 2009, however, the number of earthquakes has spiked in the central and eastern regions of the United States at the same time that wastewater disposal from shale development has significantly increased. 3 This increase in seismic activity was remarkable, given that areas such as central and northern Oklahoma are accustomed to very few felt earthquakes. While the majority of these tremors are too minor to cause any damage, several 2011–2012 quakes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas had magnitudes of over 5.0, resulting in some injuries and damage. 4 

According to recent studies by independent scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the underground injection of high volumes of produced water is associated with the increase in earthquakes in the central and eastern United States. 5, 6, 7 It should be noted, however, that there are over 150,000 approved injection wells in the United States, used for various purposes, most of which have no measurable seismic activity associated with them. Approximately 40,000 of these disposal wells are for oil and gas operations. 8 It thus appears that only a very few wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry could potentially cause earthquakes large enough to be felt on the surface. 9 The challenge is therefore identifying which injection wells, at which locations, have the potential to trigger seismicity.

A 2015 USGS and University of Colorado analysis of the relationship between wastewater injection and induced seismicity concluded that the injection rate is strongly correlated with the incidence of earthquakes. Wells injecting more than 300,000 barrels a month are much more likely to be associated with a seismic event than wells injecting at a lower rate. 10 The researchers indicated that managing the injection rate could therefore be a promising approach to reducing the likelihood of induced earthquakes.

Although there have been concerns that the process of hydraulic fracturing could trigger earthquakes, the vast majority of these tremors have been linked to wastewater injection rather than to hydraulic fracturing. 11 In its investigation of a magnitude 3.0 quake that occurred in March 2014, however, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources concluded that the incident may be due to hydraulic fracturing activity itself, and not to wastewater disposal. 12

The USGS continues to conduct research into induced seismicity with a set of studies designed to monitor and evaluate seismic events; better understand and predict the linkages between injection and earthquakes; and estimate earthquake hazards. 13 The Oklahoma Geological Survey is also conducting a study of quakes related to hydraulic fracturing activity. 14While researchers work to shed more light on the connections between seismicity and industrial activity, a work group composed of state oil and gas regulatory agencies and geological surveys has produced a guidance document for regulators on evaluating and managing the risks of induced seismicity and developing response strategies. 15 Depending on the circumstances, the mitigation options described include increasing seismic monitoring in at-risk areas, altering injection rates or pressures, introducing permit modifications, and halting injection activities.

States are addressing these induced seismicity concerns in various ways. In 2013, for example, Oklahoma put in place an evolving “traffic light” system for regulating disposal injection wells that involves a seismicity review of proposed wells, along with monitoring and increased testing of wells in areas of possible seismic activity. 16 Directives issued by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission have resulted in reductions in well depth and the volume of injections at certain wells, and have required some wells to cease injections. 17 Ohio has issued new permitting requirements for injection wells and now requires additional seismic monitoring at both injection well and shale development sites. 18, 19 Texas, on the other hand, has been more cautious about taking regulatory action, opting to wait for the results of further research on the connection between injection wells and seismicity. 20 The Texas Railroad Commission has, however, required additional testing from certain wells where links to induced seismicity have been suspected. 21  

Notes:

  1. Adgate, Goldstein, and McKenzie, “Potential Public Health Hazards,” 8310.
  2. Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil & Gas Development: A Primer on Technical and Regulatory Considerations Informing Risk Management and Mitigation (2015), 1.
  3. There was an annual average of 21 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or larger (M3+) in central and eastern parts of the United States between 1973 and 2008; from 2009 through 2013, the annual rate averaged 99 M3+ earthquakes in these areas; and in 2014 alone, there were 659 M3+ earthquakes in the central and eastern states (U.S. Geological Survey, “Induced Earthquakes,” last modified September 20, 2015).
  4. M. Weingarten, S. Ge, J.W. Godt, B.A. Bekins, J.L. Rubinstein, “High-Rate Injection Is Associated with the Increase in U.S. Mid-Continent Seismicity, Science 348, no. 6241 (June 19, 2015), 1336.
  5. M. Weingarten et al., “High-Rate Injection,” 1336.
  6. F. Rall Walsh III and Mark D. Zoback, “Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes and saltwater disposal,” Science Advances 1, no. 5 (June 18, 2015).
  7. Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (GWREF), “White Paper II Summarizing a Special Session on Induced Seismicity: Assessing and Managing Risk of Induced Seismicity by Injection” (November 2013), 19.
  8. USGS, “USGS FAQs,” last modified August 19, 2015.
  9. USGS, “Induced Earthquakes.”
  10. M. Weingarten et al., “High-Rate Injection,” 1336.
  11. USGS, “How is hydraulic fracturing related to earthquakes and tremors?USGS FAQs, last modified August 19, 2015.
  12. Edward McAllister,Ohio Links Fracking to Earth Quakes, Announces Tougher Rules,” Reuters (April 11, 2014).
  13. For more information, see the United States Geological Survey, “Induced Earthquakes,” last modified September 11, 2014. 
  14. Mike Soraghan, “Oklahoma Agency Gets $1.8M to Study Seismic Links to Drilling,” E&E News, July 16, 2014.
  15. Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil & Gas Development, 4.
  16. Oklahoma Corporation Commission, “OCC Announces Next Step in Continuing Response to Earthquake Concerns” (July 17, 2015).  
  17. Oklahoma Corporation Commission, “OCC Announces Next Step.”
  18. GWREF, “White Paper II,” 27.
  19.  Edward McAllister, “Ohio Links Fracking to Earthquakes.” 
  20. GWREF, “White Paper II,” 26–27.
  21. Barclay R. Nicholson and Emery G. Richards, “Induced Seismicity Legal Issues Break New Ground,” Law360, (May 15, 2015).

What resources can provide further information?

What resources can provide further information?

Safety

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards,” last updated August 5, 2013, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/default.html. The pocket guide contains general industrial hygiene information on chemicals for workers and occupational health professionals. It is available for download and free copies can be ordered from the website.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Oil and Gas Extraction,” https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/oilgaswelldrilling/standards.html. This website has health and safety standards pertaining to the oil and gas industry. There is also a tool that details potential health and safety hazards by stage of production, along with preventative measures and solutions for each:  https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/oilandgas/index.html

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES

Safety

Activities that can serve to protect the safety of project workers and the community include:

  • siting well pads as far away from residences and water wells as possible
  • pressure testing of blowout prevention equipment prior to production
  • following best practices and industry guidance for well construction and maintenance, particularly for well casing
  • providing safety training for workers on proper equipment maintenance and practices to prevent blowouts and spills
  • engaging in emergency planning in which operators meet with emergency room staff and local first responders to review emergency response plans and provide the information on the chemicals used at the project site
  • conducting joint trainings and drills for hazardous materials (hazmat) incidents with operators, emergency room departments, fire departments, and other first responders
  • assessing local health care and emergency response capacity and helping to improve capacity where needed
  • providing driver training programs, along with safety controls such as speed monitors, road risk maps, driver drug testing, stringent rules regarding shift lengths and proper rest, and routine vehicle maintenance and inspection 1 (see Box 9. Case Study:  Driver Safety)

Notes:

  1. Ian Urbina, “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” The New York Times (May 14, 2012)

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

Collaborative Activities

Safety

When a company begins exploration activities in the area, it could engage with local officials on the capacity of the local health care system and its emergency response services. Given that the operator relies on these services for the care of its personnel, it would be valuable for local health officials, company representatives, health care providers, and emergency responders to jointly identify needs. If the local health care system lacks the necessary capacity to respond to shale development-related incidents, companies could support local efforts to expand services, upgrade equipment, or provide training. 1  

Notes:

  1. Daniel Raimi and Richard G. Newell, “Shale Public Finance,” 4.

What health considerations are there?

What health considerations are there?

Safety

Shale energy development, as an industrial operation, comes with safety risks for both workers and the local community. Occupational fatalities in the United States are high in the oil and gas industry, at seven times the rate for all U.S. industries. 1  Unlike conventional oil and gas, however, shale development often takes place in close proximity to residences, in both rural and more heavily populated areas, which can also increase the risks to the public. As previously mentioned, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that approximately 15.3 million people in the United States live within one mile of a well drilled since 2000. 2

The types of incidents that can threaten the safety of workers and community residents – causing injuries and even death – include vehicular accidents, spills of wastes and chemicals, blowouts (i.e., sudden, uncontrolled releases of gases or fluids), explosions, fires, and exposure to high levels of airborne chemicals.  

Vehicular Accidents

The leading cause of worker fatalities in the oil and gas industry is traffic accidents, which pose risks to both workers and the community. Traffic accidents have been on the rise in areas where shale development is occurring, with North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas reporting increased road incidents involving industry trucks. 3 For example, Bradford County, Pennsylvania witnessed a 40% increase in truck traffic over a five-year period, with a corresponding increase in accidents involving large trucks. 4 The high rate of traffic accidents for the industry is attributed in part to the condition of the trucks, but may also be due to the oil and gas industry’s exemption from the highway safety regulations that limit the length of truck drivers’ shifts. 5

Uncontrolled Releases of Gas or Fluids at the Wellhead

Another safety issue occurs when gas or fluids are unintentionally released at the wellhead, causing a blowout. These rare instances can occur in both conventional oil and gas development and shale development when high pressure zones are encountered in the wellbore or there is a failure of the well casing and cement, valves, or other mechanical equipment. For this reason, blowout prevention devices are installed early in the process of drilling a well. A report from the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin noted that data regarding blowout frequency are not available for onshore oil and gas wells, but offshore wells report 1 to 10 blowouts per 10,000 wells that have not yet had blowout preventers installed. 6

For workers, blowouts at the surface can create exposure risks, through inhalation of hydrocarbons and contact with chemicals. These unplanned releases can also on rare occasions lead to explosions and fires on the well pad, which endanger both workers and possibly nearby residents. 

Blowouts may also occur on the subsurface, which is harder to track, and may affect aquifers or water wells in the area. The University of Texas report cited two examples from conventional oil and gas development in Louisiana and Ohio in which underground pressure changes during drilling caused water wells in the vicinity to bubble or spout water. 7

Gas Migration into Residential Water Wells and Homes

Residents living in proximity to shale wells have also expressed concern about the possibility of toxic gases accumulating inside their water wells and homes, with inhalation risks and the potential for explosions. In most cases, such reported incidents have been attributed to naturally occurring methane migration that is unrelated to any shale energy development in the vicinity. 8

A few methane explosions in homes or well houses located near shale gas operations have been reported in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas, with investigators concluding that gas may have migrated from hydraulically fractured wells nearby. In almost all such cases, gas migration occurred because well integrity was compromised due to faulty casings and/or inadequate cementing of the casings. 9

Hydrogen Sulfide

When drilling for oil and gas, workers run the risk of encountering hydrogen sulfide (or sour gas), a flammable, highly toxic gas with the odor of rotten eggs, although the odor becomes unnoticeable after a period of exposure. Although not common at conventional and shale development sites, hydrogen sulfide is toxic even at low concentrations; workers therefore wear meters to monitor for its presence. Low-level chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide may also cause cumulative health risks for workers, as well as for nearby residents who can live many years in proximity to oil and gas facilities. 10

Causes

Most safety incidents are caused by the following:

  • an influx of trucks on local roads and unsafe driving behaviors, sometimes on the part of local drivers; inadequate driver training; drug use and fatigue while driving; and poorly maintained trucks 11
  • improper construction of wells or wastewater impoundments
  • faulty equipment, often due to inadequate maintenance
  • inadequately trained well pad personnel
  • failure to follow recommended  practices to prevent blowouts and spills
  • over-pressurized gas
  • weather, particularly extreme weather events

For options for addressing these safety concerns, see the “What Can Be Done?” section below

Notes:

  1. OSHA, “Oil and Gas Extraction: Safety and Health Topics,” accessed December 1, 2014. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the regulatory agency for workforce safety.  The OSHA website houses a tool for the oil and gas industry that details potential health and safety hazards by stage of production, along with preventative measures and solutions for each (accessed November 22, 2014).
  2. Gold and McGinty, “Energy Boom.”
  3. Mike Lee, “In North Dakota’s Oil Patch, Wrecks Increase as Trucks Push onto Farm Roads,” E&E News, April 11, 2014; Resources for the Future, “Shale Gas Development Linked to Traffic Accidents in Pennsylvania,” March 2014; “In Texas, Traffic Deaths Climb amid Fracking Boom,” National Public Radio, October 2014.
  4. Adgate, Goldstein, and McKenzie, “Potential Public Health Hazards,” 8311.
  5. Ian Urbina, “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” The New York Times (May 14, 2012)
  6.  Charles G. Groat and Thomas W. Grimshaw, Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development, Energy Institute (Austin: The University of Texas at Austin, February 2012), 22 
  7. Groat and Grimshaw, Fact-Based Regulation, 23
  8.  Groat and Grimshaw, Fact-Based Regulation, 23
  9. Groat and Grimshaw, Fact-Based Regulation. 23-24
  10. Earthworks Action, “Hydrogen Sulfide.” 
  11. Ian Urbina, “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” The New York Times (May 14, 2012) 

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

What can be done to address health concerns? What have others done?

COLLABORATIVE ACTIVITIES

What topics are useful to discuss at this stage?

If local officials and company representatives meet to discuss the company’s anticipated needs and potential community impacts, possible topics to cover include:

  • the likelihood that the project will proceed to production
  • the length of time the operator anticipates conducting activities in the community
  • the typical number of outside workers the project will require and how the company plans to accommodate them  
  • the number of families and children who could accompany project workers, which can help local officials determine whether more educational resources are needed
  • the profile of the local labor pool and whether the company plans to hire locally; if so, what  job skills and training might be necessary
  • the company’s emergency response plans and potential demands on emergency and fire department services, including any training needs and any specialized emergency response equipment that should be acquired (e.g., personal protective equipment)
  • amount and timing of anticipated vehicle traffic; which local roads/bridges to avoid or are in need of an upgrade
  • method for responding to any impacts to local infrastructure and services
  • the company’s plans for water sourcing; air, water, and noise monitoring; waste disposal; and erosion control
  • approach to responding to community concerns about light,  noise, and dust from traffic
  • any plans to conduct flaring at the site
  • the company’s approach to engaging local community stakeholders

Depending on the outcome of these discussions, potential areas for collaborative planning or joint initiatives could emerge. For example, local officials can potentially work with the company and other regional stakeholders to coordinate the construction of water pipelines or common waste disposal facilities. These stakeholders may work together to establish educational programs in the region to train local workers in the skills needed at project sites (see Box 10. Examples of Education and Training Programs). 

Local officials could also work with company representatives to hold an informational session or open house about the potential for shale development in the community. Many of the above topics should also be covered in an open house—in particular, it can be helpful to discuss the likelihood that the project will proceed and the length of time operations would last.