Institute of Politics

Shale Gas

Between 2011 and 2013, the Economic Development Policy Committee, along with the Environment Policy Committee devoted its efforts to the work of the Shale Gas Roundtable. The Roundtable was comprised of a high-level, diverse membership including 26 individuals from relevant, interested constituencies throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. In August 2013, two years of study and dialogue culminated in the release of a report setting forth recommendations for the improvement of unconventional oil and gas development in Pennsylvania, including development in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The recommendations promote increased research, modernization of state regulations, and the building of relationships across sectors to support environmental protection, quality of life, and economic development goals for the region.

One of the recommendations put forth by the Shale Gas Roundtable was the development of a shale gas research plan that would provide an effective foundation for future research, communication and decision-making.  This work was led by the Health Institute Effects (HEI); The Health Institute Effects (HEI) model of providing credible, impartial science resulted in a research plan that effectively answers questions at the center of the controversy over unconventional shale gas and oil development and can be used by regulators, oil and gas developers, environmental and public health experts and other interested parties to better understand the implications of ongoing and future unconventional oil and gas development. 

“The Committee defined research questions based on a review of the literature and input received during expert consultations and two public workshops. The Committee also crafted seven criteria against which to identify and judge research areas. The criteria were intended to reflect the full breadth of research topics and characteristics that might be useful for understanding and preventing or minimizing potential impacts… Throughout its deliberations, the Committee stressed the need to account properly for these cross-cutting themes in research conducted in response to the Research Agenda. The research should also contribute to an improved understanding of these themes. Guided by a review of the literature, input from stakeholders, and its own criteria, the Committee developed 35 research questions that cover the range of topics linked to the ultimate goal of understanding and preventing or minimizing potential impacts on human and ecological health and well-being. The Committee deemed all research questions to be important topics of inquiry, although not necessarily of equal importance.”

The Committee has reviewed over 1,000 reports and peer-reviewed scientific papers related to all phases of oil and gas development and production that may have impact on the people, communities and ecology of the Appalachian region. 

The full report is 240 pages long and can be downloaded from the following website: This final report represents the culmination of the Roundtable's work. It contains eight core, overarching recommendations that emerged from the overall effort and specific recommendations within each of four focus areas – water, midstream, research, and unitization and conservation. The report also includes substantial background and educational information in both the main text and appendices.

The summary contains a condensed overview of the Roundtable’s process and resulting recommendations.  The full report should be consulted for additional details on each of the Roundtable’s recommendations.

This work was disseminated three public meetings during the development phase, and further disseminated at several scientific conferences.  Listed below are the dissemination activities supported by this grant.