Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health
Why Managing It Matters
At year-end 2018, EQT owned or leased approximately 1.4 million gross acres primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio; consequently, land plays a huge role in EQT’s daily activities. Exploration and production activity have the potential to impact the surrounding landscape, including areas with high biodiversity value.
Management Approach, Performance and Evaluation
EQT actively works to minimize our impact on the land and wildlife where we operate, both because it is the right thing to do and because we understand that our reputation depends on it. Our daily exploration and production of natural gas activities inevitably alter the land to some degree; therefore, we strive to make careful decisions to limit our impact. As a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, we participate in working groups that focus on site planning, development, restoration and other topics that foster land protection.
Once operations are complete at a site, we work with property owners to restore their land — as closely as possible — to its original condition. We reestablish contours and revegetate with state-approved seed mixes, native seed mixes and/or vegetation requested by landowners. We also commonly accommodate agency requests to use specialized seed mixes (e.g., pollinator mixes) and landowner requests for topsoil segregation. These techniques support local flora and fauna by allowing wildlife movement, restoration of pre-existing habitat and prevention of invasive species. EQT works with landowners to successfully accommodate their preference for returning their land to its pre-construction condition all while meeting the regulatory requirements set forth by state and federal agencies. This enables us to maintain positive relationships with landowners and communities and support biodiversity and habitat protection.
EQT’s Environmental Department, led by our Corporate Director, Environmental Affairs, is responsible for the oversight and management of all aspects of our environmental footprint. This department reports to the Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety, and is ultimately guided by the Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility Committee of the board of directors.
Biodiversity and Land Management
We assess and monitor 100% of our business segment operations for biodiversity risks. EQT follows federal, state and local regulations regarding species and habitat protection during operational activity near protected land or areas of high biodiversity.
We do not directly drill for natural gas production purposes on legally protected lands in our owned or leased properties; these include wetlands, federal lands and national parks. When drilling on land adjacent to protected areas, we leverage our horizontal drilling expertise to extract natural gas from underground without disturbing the surface or native species. Additionally, our horizontal drilling techniques enable us to drill multiple gas wells from a single pad — which, in turn, helps to preserve the environment by minimizing surface impact. At the end of a well’s life cycle, EQT carefully plugs each well and restores the land to as near its original condition as possible before exiting the area.
|Location||Wetlands (km2)||Federal Land and Parks (km2)|
In 2018, EQT owned or leased approximately 1,238 square kilometers of active acreage in legally protected areas. EQT did not directly drill any wells in these protected areas or areas of high biodiversity value but rather leveraged our horizontal drilling technology to extract resources from these areas; therefore, no habitats required protection or restoration in 2018.
Fifth-Grade Class Helps Save Playground from Erosion
When McGuffey School District elementary students in Washington County, Pa., noticed their playground and walking trail were shrinking into a nearby stream within the Chartiers Creek watershed, they decided to take action. In May 2018, 38 fifth-grade students from Joe Walker Elementary School wrote letters to multiple groups, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), asking for help to save their playground. Their efforts paid off, and the EQT Foundation awarded WPC a $55,000 grant to restore the streambanks that run alongside the playground. Armed with maps and markers, students helped WPC watershed staff design the future planting of native trees and shrubs, which occurred in the fall after the streambank had been re-graded.
Bats, snakes, mussels and plants are the most common endangered species found within EQT’s operating areas. Prior to commencing operations in any area, we conduct studies to determine whether threatened or endangered species exist in that region. In consideration of species protection, EQT consults with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state wildlife resource agencies to ensure operations do not adversely affect threatened or endangered species within proposed project locations. Throughout the past several years, EQT and nine other oil and gas companies collaborated with the USFWS to continue developing a multi-state Habitat Conservation Plan to avoid, minimize and offset the effects of our operations on five native bat species in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio during the next 50 years. EQT participated in this program in 2018 and the initiative continued into 2019.
We also use various domestic environmental registries to identify potential impacts to threatened, endangered and special concern species or resources near possible areas of operation. We make it a priority to avoid disturbing these species and habitats, but if this is not possible, we work with appropriate federal and state agencies to prevent any permanent impacts and to develop and execute protection plans, including implementation of artificial structures, such as bat boxes and artificial bark. These features replace potential roosting trees removed for project development.
Eleven endangered species and five threatened species occupy habitat within EQT’s operating area, covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects at least 25 different species that use EQT’s core operating area as either breeding grounds or seasonal habitat. Additionally, the Eagle Act protects the Bald and Golden Eagles, which nest in the area. The following table summarizes the species of concern located within EQT’s core operating area.
Virginia big-eared bat
Northern riffleshell mussel
Pink mucket mussel
Rayed bean mussel
Running buffalo clover
Northern long-eared bat
Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake
Flat-spired three-toothed snail
|Small whorled pogonia|