Anne Blankenship and Charlie Burd: Oil and gas getting greener (Daily Mail)

West Virginia is home to some of our country’s most scenic landscapes.

Our rivers, mountains and forests are a source of pride — and shared value — to us all.

Protecting our environment is a top priority for the tens of thousands of hardworking West Virginians who work across the oil and natural gas industry.

We live and raise our families in the communities where we’re privileged to operate and want to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy everything that makes our state so special.

That’s why conservation and environmental stewardship is at our industry’s core. We’re laser focused on innovation aimed at protecting and enhancing public health as well as our environment, while also creating good-paying local jobs and economic opportunity.

This commitment is clear in every aspect of oil and natural gas development: from drawing initial wellsite plans, to rigorous standards followed during every aspect of well development, through careful siting and construction of pipelines, as well as associated infrastructure.

We also understand some still question whether oil and gas activities are regulated strongly enough or regulated at all. Some individuals genuinely want to know more, so we, as an industry, have the responsibility to openly and transparently foster a fact-based dialogue about these important issues.

We also recognize others have no interest in the facts, which is unfortunate. It’s disappointing that these same individuals spread misinformation and fear, which degrades public confidence.

Oil and gas development is one of the nation’s most rigorously regulated industries — period.

Dozens of regulations and laws — the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, as well as the state Horizontal Well Act and key air, groundwater and erosion control permits, among others — oversee virtually every aspect of the process.

And that’s a good thing. Our industry strongly supports robust, predictable and workable regulations that provide surety and promote environmental, workforce and community safety.

Through collaborative efforts — working closely with any number of relevant government agencies, conservation groups, as well as local stakeholders — our industry continues to clearly demonstrate how seriously we take our responsibility to environmental leadership and stewardship.

Being good environmental stewards is also good for business — it’s not an either-or. Our state is showing we can — and must — achieve environmental and economic progress.

Such efforts have resulted in cleaner air as oil and gas producers continue to reduce methane emissions, even as production rates have soared.

Land disturbance is minimized through careful attention to reclaiming drilling sites. A commitment to recycling water has dramatically decreased freshwater use and truck traffic.

In Doddridge County, a massive investment in-water infrastructure will help eliminate land, air and water impacts while creating good-paying local jobs, along with other important community benefits.

Antero Resources’ $275 million Clearwater Facility — a world-class project that is subject to an exhaustive regulatory and permitting process — will fully treat water from natural gas operations for safe reuse. By treating water for reuse, Clearwater will eliminate the need for using injection wells for water disposal, thereby reducing land use.

Clearwater, which will begin operations this year, works hand-in-glove with the $500 million-plus centralized freshwater systems Antero has been developing over the years to reduce truck traffic and water sourcing demands. Fewer trucks — hundreds of thousands each year — on the road increases safety and air quality.

What’s more, Clearwater will be powered by locally produced, clean-burning natural gas. Finding more ways to use our local resources across our economy — especially for manufacturing — presents very bright and long-term investment and job growth opportunities for West Virginia.

In a recent interview with the Exponent-Telegram, Antero Chief Administrative Officer Al Schopp said “the primary reason for this [project] is the long-term environmental impact of recycling water,” adding: “We’ll be able to reduce more truck miles and eliminate the use of disposal wells throughout the state.”

Despite this positive economic and environmental progress, some individuals continue to prey on fear and dishonesty.

West Virginians deserve better. Our industry will continue to make our home a better place through a shared commitment to protecting our state. And we’ll stick to the facts, too.

Anne Blankenship is executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (wvonga.com). Charlie Burd is executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (iogawv.com).


This op-ed was co-authored by Anne Blankenship and Charlie Burd for the Charleston Gazette Mail. Click here to read it on the publication's website.