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Air Water Gas SRN Project Summary

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The Sustainability Research Network (SRN) addresses the conflict between natural gas extraction and water and air resources protection with the development of a social
ecological system framework with which to assess the conflict and to identify needs for scientific information. Scientific investigations is being conducted to assess and mitigate the problems. Outreach and education efforts is focused on citizen science, public involvement, and awareness of the science and policy issues.

Publié dans : Environnement
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Air Water Gas SRN Project Summary

  1. 1. PROJECT SUMMARY The current energy system in the United States relies on finite resources that are the major cause of climate change and a key source of global conflict. A sustainable energy system – one that uses renewable, low-­‐‑carbon, affordable, and local energy sources – may be decades away. Natural gas is seen as the “bridge fuel” to a more sustainable energy system because natural gas combustion emits smaller amounts of greenhouse gases than coal combustion. However, conflicts have arisen between accelerated natural gas development and water and air resources protection. These conflicts are becoming acute in the Rocky Mountain region, which has always played an important role in the energy system of the United States. Most of the recent growth in natural gas production is the result of extracting gas from “unconventional” sources (coal-­‐‑bed methane, shale gas, tight gas) with the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing requires large volumes of water that are chemically amended and injected to increase the permeability of the gas-­‐‑bearing formations. The fracturing fluid left in ground and the fracturing fluid that returns to the surface (flowback), along with produced water, present risks to ground and surface waters. Natural gas extraction results in atmospheric emissions, particularly the release of greenhouse gases, oxides of nitrogen, and volatile organic compounds tied to the generation of ozone. These stresses on local water and air resources must be weighed against the benefits of natural gas production for the nation and the public must be provided with reliable information to make decisions about energy sources and resource protection. This proposed Sustainability Research Network (SRN) addresses the conflict between natural gas extraction and water and air resources protection with the development of a social-­‐‑ ecological system framework with which to assess the conflict and to identify needs for scientific information. Scientific investigations will be conducted to assess and mitigate the problems. Outreach and education efforts will focus on citizen science, public involvement, and awareness of the science and policy issues. The intellectual merits of this SRN proposal include (1) examination of the effects of natural gas development on water and air resources by analyzing trade-­‐‑offs between local, regional, and national costs and benefits in environmental, social, and economic domains (social-­‐‑ecological systems); (2) review of industry practices for hydraulic fracturing, well drilling and casing, and gas collection infrastructure for best management practices recommendations (natural gas infrastructure); (3) investigation of the hydrologic processes that determine impacts of natural gas extraction on groundwater withdrawal and contaminant transport in drinking water aquifers and surface waters (water quantity); (4) characterization of the potential risks of fracturing fluid migrating to drinking water aquifers, the injection or discharge of
  2. 2. flowback and produced water, and the mitigation of these risks by treatment of the flowback and produced waters (water quality); (5) improved spatial and temporal monitoring of air pollutants by a combination of high-­‐‑resolution mobile sampling and the use of personal air monitors as an example of “citizen science” feeding data to air quality models that assess the local, regional, and national implications of natural gas development (air quality); and (6) quantitative and qualitative assessment of the health risks, both chemical and non-­‐‑chemical, associated with water and air exposure. The broader impacts of the proposal include improved public understanding of the effects of natural gas development on water and air resources and better decision-­‐‑making regarding the local effects and regional and national benefits of natural gas development. The broader impacts will be achieved through extensive education and outreach activities: (1) dissemination of best management practices in collaboration with all stakeholders, (2) innovative and diverse communication about scientists and scientific activity that will reach a broad portion of the public, (3) collaboration with Indian tribes and other under-­‐‑represented groups disproportionately affected by natural gas development, (4) educational efforts aimed at providing appreciation for the science-­‐‑policy interface at the university and K-­‐‑12 levels, and (5) engagement of the public through citizen science, workshops, and scenario planning.

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