Drillers, Ecologists Work Together to Protect Wildlife

An interesting article in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explores how drilling firms and wildlife groups are working together to protect endangered species and reviving long-gone habitats for other species. It begins this way:

The Indiana bat weighs less than an ounce and is so small it is able to nest in the spaces between a tree trunk and its rotting bark.

It can also do what class-action lawsuits and full-throated protesters haven’t been able to: stop Marcellus Shale drilling.

Energy firms are quizzed daily on their industry’s impact on air and water used by humans, but the companies’ rapid development must also take into account less sentient creatures.

Does that Greene County property sit atop bountiful shale gas reserves? Better make sure the endangered shortnose sturgeon doesn’t swim in a nearby stream. Think that pasture would make a great place to lay pipeline? Check for the beleaguered snow trillium first.*

Later in the article:

Field surveyors don’t need to spot the actual animal — just having a habitat conducive to that animal is enough to preclude drilling.

Trees with shredded bark are a summer roosting habitat for the Indiana bat, for example. "If that habitat exists, you have to assume that the bat could occur in that area,"…

Ecological surveying — which usually includes searching for bats, wetlands and mussels — and permitting takes about nine months for a Marcellus well. That’s about three times longer than it takes to build and drill the well, said Katharine Fredriksen, the senior vice president for environmental strategy and regulatory affairs at Cecil-based Consol Energy.

After the well has been drilled and fracked, Consol Energy and other companies must reclaim the site and have the new vegetation inspected by the DEP. In Consol’s case, the firm places a bond on the well site that isn’t released until the DEP approves the reclamation.*

The article closes with how CONSOL and the Ruffed Grouse Society are working together to re-introduce young forest habitats for the ruffed grouse and other species that have been forced out of areas that are now old growth forests.

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Apr 8, 2012) – Energy firms, ecologists form unlikely alliances