A new set of performance standards could inject a higher degree of safety and accountability into the fracking industry.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has developed a set of 15 standards that oil and gas drillers can adopt in their operations (a PDF of the standards is here). The standards cover both air and water issues related to hydraulic fracturing. One performance standard, for example, requires operators to recycle a minimum of 90 percent the flowback and produced water. Another performance standard limits flaring to 14 days over the lifetime of any development well.

The standards have been under development for some time and, as of this week, CSSD is taking applications from operators in Appalachia. CSSD’s performance standards are mandatory, and currently four companies will seek certification: Chevron, CONSOL Energy, EQT, and Shell.

Matt Watson of the Environmental Defense Fund, a collaborator of CSSD, notes in a blog post that the standards are not substitutes for regulation, but provide recognition for companies who go above and beyond the minimum – akin to LEED™ certification for buildings:

Strong rules and robust oversight is a nonnegotiable bottom line. But we like the idea of upping the ante. Why not have a program that recognizes companies for going beyond the regulatory minimums and doing more to protect communities and the environment? These companies are tough competitors – so let’s make environmental performance part of what they compete on.

Operators that elect to go for the CSSD standards will be subject to third-party verification and certification.