ELP Executive Director Kate Konschnik spoke at the National Governors Association’s Water Policy Institute in Annapolis on August 8, about protecting drinking water while developing shale energy. The National Governors Association hosted the two-day conference to inform state advisers about new research and best practices in water management, covering topics such as infrastructure, conservation, financing, and pollution. Konschnik ran an “Ask an Expert” session where participants discussed possible risks to drinking water from fracking activities and how states can mitigate those risks given budget cuts and competing priorities. Questions and the discussion touched on:
- The need to establish water quality baselines before activity begins in a particular area
- The importance of accurately assessing environmental risks and reporting spills in a standardized, public way
- How to build a regulatory program from scratch that will address the risks to water posed by unconventional oil and natural gas production
- Trends in water use and spill rates over time
Konschnik has been researching and making policy recommendations about shale energy development in her role with the ELP’s Environmental Policy Initiative since 2012. Her most recent paper describes compensation funds that could be established for victims of earthquakes likely caused by production and disposal activities. These types of funds can lower the burden of proof and expedite relief for the person who was harmed. Compensation funds can also serve to discourage risky industry behaviors—by barring payouts to operators who violate rules or permit conditions, or increasing their payments to the fund—while containing liability for responsible businesses.