Press Release

RFF Releases Analysis Identifying Potential Shale Gas Risks

Risk “pathways” will guide surveys of experts, public
Jun 7, 2012

WASHINGTON—The Center for Energy Economics and Policy (CEEP) at Resources for the Future released an analysis today cataloging all the plausible environmental risks associated with the development of shale gas.

The analysis, developed at RFF with input from geologists, hydrologists, economists, risk assessors, and representatives from both industry and environmental groups, is presented in the user-friendly Risk Matrix for Shale Gas Development and can be accessed on the CEEP website.

“This risk matrix is the first step in a larger research project to identify the risks that are of top priority to experts and the public,” said RFF Senior Fellow and CEEP Director Alan Krupnick. “The risk matrix provides an essential framework for the researchers and stakeholders looking at the various issues surrounding shale gas development.”

The Risk Matrix for Shale Gas Development includes more than 200 “impact pathways,” linking activities associated with shale gas exploration and development to their possible impacts on the environment. Comprehensive in nature, the matrix includes risks ranging from fugitive releases of methane into the atmosphere to the noise pollution experienced by local communities from increased truck traffic associated with drill sites.

The risk matrix includes:

  • A list of all the activities associated with the development of a shale gas well, from site development and drilling preparation to plugging and abandonment;

  • A list of environmental aspects that could be affected by the various activities from the shale gas development process; and

  • A collection of the burdens that are produced by the activities (such as pollutants, drilling fluids, noise, and so on), which have potential impacts that people care about.

CEEP developed the risk matrix as part of a larger project that seeks to identify the greatest risks associated with hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to produce natural gas and recommend how government and industry can reduce those risks. This project, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is the first independent, broad assessment of expert opinion and public perception of the risks associated with the shale gas development process.

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Founded in 1952, Resources for the Future is an independent and nonpartisan institution.