America’s natural gas industry has the responsibility to protect our environment and improve the communities where we work and live, a charge we take seriously. Our industry knows it’s on us, as we develop our abundant resources, to get this right today and for generations to come.
That’s why forward-thinking companies along the natural gas value chain are committed to taking the same innovative and science-based approach to environmental stewardship as we take to safely producing affordable energy. Instead of waiting for outside influence, we work collectively as an industry and with stakeholders to develop leading programs and technologies aimed at protecting our environment.
Recent results show our collaborative and voluntary efforts are producing significant environmental achievements more quickly than initially imagined.
In 2014, Southwestern Energy co-founded Our Nation’s Energy Future (ONE Future), a coalition of 16 natural gas companies representing the wellhead to burner tip. ONE Future reported last month that it surpassed its goal for reducing methane emissions a full eight years early. Reaching a methane intensity level of 0.552 percent in 2017 (ahead of the 1 percent goal set for 2025), ONE Future shows how quickly we can respond to the call to protect and improve our air using sound science and an outcome-based approach.
At Southwestern Energy, environmental stewardship is a core value. Our continuous drive to limit methane emissions uses high-tech innovation and a focus on efficient operations, developed and executed by our employees in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. We use a robust leak detection and repair program that combines infrared gas-imaging cameras, laser equipment, and other cutting-edge technology combined with increased inspections and monitoring exceeding what state or federal regulations require.
We work with the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency to develop new techniques and equipment to further improve technologies. And we actively support academic research aimed at improving and sharing the industry’s knowledge and data around reducing emissions.
Capturing methane — the very product we produce, distribute and sell — naturally makes good business sense in our industry. But it’s only one example of our larger commitment to sustainable operations.
Working with Independent Energy Standards Corp., Southwestern recently secured the first environmentally responsible certification for West Virginia-produced natural gas. The market-driven program ensures operations meet strict standards for protecting air, land and water. Since 2016, we have also achieved annual goals of maintaining “freshwater neutral” operations, ensuring we replenish every gallon of freshwater used in our operations. As part of that initiative, Southwestern Energy partnered with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to support construction of an acid mine drainage treatment facility, restoring clean water to Muddy Creek and the Cheat River that will support abundant fish and wildlife.
As safe, reliable natural gas production grows in Appalachia and elsewhere, we have an opportunity to yield even greater benefits at home and abroad. Increased use of clean-burning natural gas to generate electricity has resulted in a 25-year low in energy-sector carbon emissions. Abundant supplies help lower energy bills for West Virginia families. And as critical infrastructure is built to transport natural gas to new markets, people who rely on inefficient sources of energy can share in the benefits of cleaner, more affordable fuels, reducing energy poverty.
Through innovative, collaborative efforts such as ONE Future, our industry is proving itself to be a strong environmental steward. Together we can achieve greater results and ensure we positively impact more lives for generations to come.
Jennifer Stewart is senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs for Southwestern Energy Company, a leading natural gas and oil producer in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
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