Hydraulic fracturing and related ground water issues are growing features in public discourse. Few have given much attention to surface impacts from shale gas development, which result from building necessary surface infrastructure. One way to reduce future impacts from gas surface development without radically changing industry practice is by formulating simple, conservation-oriented planning guidelines. We explore how four such guidelines affect the locations of well pads, access roads, and gathering pipelines on state lands in Pennsylvania. Our four guidelines aim to (1) reduce impacts on water, reduce impacts from (2) gathering pipelines and (3) access roads, and (4) reduce impacts on forests. We assessed whether the use of such guidelines accompanies tradeoffs among impacts, and if any guidelines perform better than others at avoiding impacts. We find that impacts are mostly synergistic, such that avoiding one impact will result in avoiding others. However, we found that avoiding forest fragmentation may result in increased impacts on other environmental features. We also found that single simple planning guidelines can be effective in targeted situations, but no one guideline was universally optimal in avoiding all impacts. As such, we suggest that when multiple environmental features are important in an area, more comprehensive planning strategies and tools should be used.
Access roads Decision making Energy infrastructure Environmental impacts Forest fragmentation Gas companies Gas developers Gathering pipelines Well pads
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We gratefully acknowledge the feedback of C. Dumoulin, R. Fovargue, G. Iacona, E. Larson, N. Sutton, S. Ward. The first author was funded by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, the Colcom Foundation, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation during the completion of this work.
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