Shale Gas: New Opportunities, New Challenges

The outlook for North America’s natural gas supply has improved dramatically in recent years as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies have made it possible to commercially develop tight and shale gas reserves. These shale gas basins are located in diverse geographical areas, including Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Texas and Louisiana. Effective and responsible development and use of these newly accessible resources provide an enormous opportunity for the United States and has the potential to fundamentally improve our nation’s economic and energy security.

The rapid expansion of shale gas production, however, has also given rise to concerns regarding potentially adverse environmental effects — such as water, land, air quality and greenhouse gas emission impacts. In response, many of the states where hydraulic fracturing operations are occurring have recently stepped up their regulatory oversight, and some states have placed development on hold until they can implement more rigorous requirements for drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations.

Reaping the full economic and environmental benefits of an expanded U.S. gas resource base requires building public confidence that shale gas resources will be developed in a safe and environmentally sound manner. This paper identifies emerging issues and opportunities for capturing the economic benefits associated with this new and significant domestic energy resource.

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