PITTSBURGH - The Sierra Club and some other environmental groups are harshly criticizing a new partnership that aims to create tough new standards for fracking.
The criticism Thursday came a day after two of the nation's biggest oil and gas companies made peace with some national and regional environmental groups, agreeing to go through an independent review of their shale oil and gas drilling operations in the Northeast.
If Shell Oil, Chevron Appalachia and other companies are found to be abiding by a list of stringent measures to protect the air and water from pollution, they will receive the blessing of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development, created by environmentalists and the energy industry.
But some are questioning whether a partnership between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry should exist at all.
"We know that our continued reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, like natural gas, will not solve the climate crisis, even with the best controls in place," said Deb Nardone, a Sierra Club campaign director, who called the new plan "akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound."
"The majority of natural gas must stay in the ground if we want any chance of avoiding climate disaster," Nardone said.
An Ohio environmental group wasn't happy, either.
"This deal in no way represents the interests or agreement of the people being harmed by fracking in Ohio," said Sandy Buchanan, the director of Ohio Citizen Action. "A hydraulic fracturing peace treaty? Not so fast, my friend."
In addition to Shell and Chevron, the participants in the new center include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Heinz Endowments, the Clean Air Task Force, EQT Corp. and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The organizers hope to recruit new members, too.
The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio - where a frenzy of drilling is under way in the huge, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations. If fracking is approved in New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling, it could apply there, too.
The Environmental Defense Fund responded to the Sierra Club criticism by noting that the new plan is meant to be a complement to strong regulations, not a replacement.
"When an opportunity comes to engage companies constructively and hold them to a higher standard, we're going to take that opportunity every time," said Mark Brownstein, EDF associate vice president.
"This deal in no way represents the interests or agreement of the people being harmed by fracking in Ohio."
director of Ohio Citizen Action