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Risks and risk governance in unconventional shale gas development

Authors: 
Small MJ, PC Stern, E Bomberg, SM Christopherson, BD Goldstein, AL Israel, RB Jackson, A Krupnick, MS Mauter, J Nash, DW North, SM Olmstead, A Prakash, BG Rabe, N Richardson, S Tierney, T Webler, G Wong-Parodi, B Zielinska
Year: 
2014
Journal: 
Environmental Science and Technology
Journal Volume/Pages: 
48:8289-8297

A broad assessment is provided of the current state of knowledge regarding the risks associated with shale gas development and their governance. For the principal domains of risk, we identify observed and potential hazards and promising mitigation options to address them, characterizing current knowledge and research needs. Important unresolved research questions are identified for each area of risk, however, certain domains exhibit especially acute deficits of knowledge and attention, including integrated studies of public health, ecosystems, air quality, socioeconomic impacts on communities, and climate change. For these, current research and analysis are insufficient to either confirm or preclude important impacts. The rapidly evolving landscape of shale gas governance in the U.S. is also assessed, noting challenges and opportunities associated with the current decentralized (state-focused) system of regulation. We briefly review emerging approaches to shale gas governance in other nations, and consider new governance initiatives and options in the U.S. involving voluntary industry certification, comprehensive development plans, financial instruments, and possible future federal roles. In order to address the multiple disciplines and complexities of the evolving shale gas system and reduce the many key uncertainties needed for improved management, a coordinated multiagency federal research effort will need to be implemented.

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