COS 129-7
Shale gas surface infrastructure in Appalachia: reducing impacts through better planning

Friday, August 15, 2014: 10:10 AM
309/310, Sacramento Convention Center
Austin Milt, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
Paul R. Armsworth, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

Shale gas development in Central Appalachia (USA) has skyrocketed since 2007 due to rising natural gas prices and advancing hydrofracking and horizontal drilling. Shale gas development requires lots of surface infrastructure, the most prevalent being new well pads, access roads, and gathering pipelines. How large are the impacts on natural systems from this new infrastructure? Can gas companies reduce impacts from future development through more environmentally conscientious planning? We sited surface infrastructure with an increased attention to the environment on sites across Pennsylvania. We quantified impacts from this infrastructure, impacts that include those on forests, streams, wetlands, and humans. We assessed how alternative planning strategies affected the various impact metrics we measured.


Environmental impacts from surface infrastructure depend on how that infrastructure is sited, especially with regard to which impacts are preferentially avoided. For instance, placing infrastructure with a forest-impact focus reduces overall forest impacts, but performs relatively worse at protecting streams than when using a stream focus. Impacts tend to be positively but weakly correlated, indicating that while some planning can be simplified, it will take more than simple guidelines to simultaneously minimize across a suite of impacts.