By Bill Way, CEO Southwestern Energy Co.
Nov. 17, 2019
Our planet’s most precious resource, vital to sustaining healthy ecosystems and communities, is water.
The first civilizations took root beside water, harnessing it for crops. Later, the first industries were born along waterways that provided power for machinery and a means of transport. Today, water serves as a critical resource in modern energy production, providing a necessary ingredient for the hydraulic fracturing revolution has made our nation more energy secure and independent.
Protecting and conserving this vital resource is everyone’s responsibility. At Southwestern Energy, taking on that responsibility goes beyond a commitment to being a good environmental steward. It’s a SWN core value that drives all of our operational decisions as we responsibly develop natural gas and oil across Appalachia.
Our successful track record and path to continue protecting and enhancing water quality is guided by Southwestern Energy’s “Fresh Water Neutral” initiative. Simply put, for each gallon of fresh water we use in our operations, we replenish or offset it into the environment. We’re proud to have met this commitment for nearly four consecutive years.
Remaining fresh water neutral recently led Southwestern Energy to an important milestone: We recently surpassed 10 billion gallons of fresh water returned to the environment through our comprehensive approach to optimizing water usage and the completion of 10 company-sponsored water conservation projects since 2014.
The projects include channel and habitat restoration projects on rivers and streams, expansions of wetlands and erosion controls, and construction of systems to collect and treat acid mine drainage (AMD) across Appalachia. The most recent project, completed this year, is helping to restore the Cheat River’s Muddy Creek watershed in West Virginia, which had been severely impaired by third-party AMD unrelated to our operations.
In each of these projects we partnered with government agencies, local communities and nonprofits to ensure the greatest environmental and economic benefits are generated. Without those local partnerships and the hard work of Southwestern employees, passing the 10-billion-gallon milestone would have been impossible. Combined, the 10 projects and ongoing partnerships will conserve or restore an additional 2.8 billion gallons of fresh water annually.
Another key to achieving fresh water neutral status involves our focus on water conservation, reduction, protection and innovation in our operations. New technology allows us to decrease water usage in wells while improving productivity. Again, we’re partnering with outside agencies including private labs and universities to optimize how we use water to produce energy.
Importantly, our long-term commitment to environmental stewardship extends beyond water and drives our decisions around protecting the air and land in communities where we’re privileged to operate.
Our leadership in this space was recognized this year when Southwestern earned the highest score among North America’s 30 largest publicly traded oil and natural gas producers in a report from shareholder advocacy group As You Sow and investment advisory firm Boston Common Asset Management assessing water and chemical management practices.
We’re proud to make these incredible strides toward proving that responsibly produced energy creates important economic and environmental benefits for consumers, for the United States, and for the world. Together with our community and industry partners, we can ensure we’re protecting the water, air and land for generations to come.