Development of shale gas has attracted myriad fans and enemies in recent months: those who cheer a source of natural gas on the home turf of the U.S. and environmentalists who warn the process to release the gas underground risks contaminating drinking water.
This month, Chesapeake Energy, Denbury Resources and Southwest Energy Co. each made headlines for environmental mishaps, and share the top spot in this issue of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines Sept. 6 to Sept 19 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.
Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.
In the wake of the Gulf Oil disaster, environmentalists have become increasingly critical of the process of hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock underground in order to retrieve natural gas. A recent public hearing by the EPA on hydraulic fracturing in Binghamton, New York drew about 200 protesters, and the NGO Riverkeeper published a study in conjunction with the hearings outlining the risks of the technique for water contamination.
Several companies active in hydraulic fracturing for shale gas have faced notable controversies surrounding the impacts of the practice in recent weeks. Chesapeake Energy, a company that hopes to expand its hydraulic fracturing into New York State, was ordered to ensure the safety of its shale wells in Pennsylvania, after the Department of Environmental Protection found methane concentrations in water that could be traced back to several of the company’s sites.