The Tri-State Shale Summit
In late November, members of the Tri-State Shale Coalition and interested stakeholders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia gathered for the third annual Tri-State Shale Summit at Stark State College in Canton, Ohio.
The 2017 Summit was a forum to discuss current efforts promoting the region’s developing shale industries. The Summit addressed the question, “Where have we been and where are we going?” The agenda featured engaging sessions on the coalition’s work in transportation & infrastructure, marketing the region, research & innovation, commercialization, and workforce development. Power of 32 talked to four of the expert presenters who shared the key messages from their presentations.
Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency joined other government representatives at the Tri-State Shale Summit to discuss regulatory collaboration between Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
According to Butler, the Summit and the presentation showed that the three states continue to work together collaboratively to “understand it and adapt our regulatory programs so that the oil and gas industry can prosper here in the tri-state region.”
“The oil and gas play is bigger than any one state, and it's really a regional commitment we are all making,” he says. “The way we embody that from a regulatory perspective is to have our respective agencies coordinating the regulatory process so that we're not competing against each other or frankly inhibiting the industry in one state or the region, and making sure that environmental safeguards are protected and the public feels confident that we're managing this new industry well.”
Butler is known for leading the conversation about streamlining permitting. However, he is quick to point out that regulatory issues are more universal.
“Permitting is important because it means you can start your project,” he explains. “But prior to permitting it's all about building up relationships. We start very early and say ‘come talk to us before you have a project, get to know us, and help us understand what your project is.’ Then we can craft a relationship that helps you get through all of the permitting processes as quickly as possible.”
Beyond the permitting process Butler’s agency holds regular meetings with individuals and groups in the industry to understand what's happening on the ground, to raise issues that the EPA has or that the public has raised, and to come up with a strategy on how to manage the issues.
Butler says that this “full-service orientation” versus focusing on just permitting has been successful. “We've really seen this approach pay big dividends, not only in terms of speed to the market, but also in the public’s belief that we are safeguarding public health, and the environment is protected, and industry thrives. So it's a triple win.”
Butler says that the recent Summit reflected the fact that the industry is moving out of exploration and that there is a sense of reality and permanency. “There is a transition from oil and gas exploration to managing the industry and downstream development so we maintain it for the long term and see it evolve and lift up the region.”
From a development and regulatory perspective, Butler says that the three states recognize the reality and are working to be sure “we understand it and reap and maximize the benefits.”
A key way to accomplish this is through ongoing collaboration.
The three states started an informal tri-state regulatory coordination in 2014, which was reinforced at the time of the 2015 Summit when the state governors signed a three-year agreement to enhance regional cooperation and job growth through the continuing development of shale gas in the Appalachian Basin.
“That was the genesis of recognizing the need to make sure our regulatory programs are consistent so that we don't say ‘okay we can’t do something in Pennsylvania, so we'll just go to Ohio’,” says Butler. “We didn't want to see the passing of the hot potato back and forth.”
Meetings to coordinate regulatory programs have expanded beyond the tri-state to include Michigan and Kentucky.
“We continue to meet formally as our teams travel to the other states and put together summit meetings between our oil and gas and our environmental programs,” says Butler. “The objective is to share information and best practices and deal with all of the downstream issue. It’s been a great collaboration.”