Environmental
Biodiversity and
Land Impacts

Why It Matters to Us

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Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

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We recognize the important role land plays in our daily activities, as we owned or leased approximately 2.0 million gross acres primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio in 2021. The potential impact of natural gas operations on biodiversity, habitats, and land are highly regulated and a primary focus for local communities, landowners, and many industry associations. Preventing our operations — including site design, development, operation, and decommissioning — from negatively affecting the surrounding landscape and local biodiversity is critical to building trust with our valued stakeholders and it aligns with our commitment to environmental stewardship.

What We Are Doing

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The management approach and its components

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Operational sites owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas

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Significant impacts of activities, products and services on biodiversity

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We are focused on mitigating, avoiding, and monitoring any impacts on the land and wildlife where we operate throughout the life cycle of a site. Addressing any issues identified during the permitting phase enables us to proactively minimize or avoid land impacts. 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. Our Permitting and Civil group works closely with our Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) team through the permitting, monitoring, and decommissioning of sites. Our guidelines are outlined in our comprehensive EHS Management System.

We do not conduct surface operations on legally protected lands such as federally designated wetlands, federal lands, and national parks. We follow federal, state, and local regulations regarding species and habitat protection during operational activity near protected lands or areas of high biodiversity.

2021 Leased or Owned Acreage in Legally Protected Areas[1]

 

Wetlands (km2)

Federal Land and Parks (km2)

Pennsylvania

98.1

792.3

West Virginia

18.4

84.6

Ohio

10.5

9.8

Total

127.0

886.7

Surveys and Permitting

We assess all of our operating sites for biodiversity risks — including those related to wetlands, ground stability, drainage systems, and endangered species prior to any development. We work with a third-party surveying and mapping team to assess sites and create wetland delineation reports. We also conduct geotechnical surveys to develop construction plans that minimize the risk of slope failure and use soil investigation surveys to confirm that our operations will not strain stormwater systems or contribute to flooding. These surveys ensure that we can safely begin construction without significantly impacting the land.

Bats, snakes, mussels, and Single Headed Pussy Toes (a plant species) are the most common endangered species found within our operating areas. We conduct studies in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and state wildlife resource agencies to determine whether threatened or endangered species exist in a region prior to commencing operations. If identified, we postpone development until appropriate mitigation activities — in consultation with a biologist — are completed. We also use various domestic environmental registries such as the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program and the U.S. FWS Information for Planning and Consultation tool to identify potential impacts to threatened, endangered, and special concern species or resources near proposed areas of operation. We make it a priority to avoid disturbing these species and habitats; where this is not possible, we work with appropriate federal and state agencies to develop and execute protection plans. Plans can include implementation of artificial structures such as bat boxes, artificial bark, and species relocation if required.

Ongoing Monitoring of Active Sites

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Description of environmental management policies and practices for active sites

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Once a site is in development, we continuously monitor for biodiversity and land impacts. Our site-specific environmental management plans align with the most stringent local regulatory requirements, often applying standards exceeding those required by law. These plans include a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan (please see Spills for more information); groundwater protection plans; and other topics applicable to the area. Our plans detail the necessary, site-specific actions to be taken in the event of an incident. For sites where endangered species have been identified and relocated, we continue to monitor species’ health in their new environment for up to two years. We also work with a third party who conducts monthly site inspections, documenting the condition of the site and noting any stabilization issues, spills, or site damage.

Identified issues are reported to our Permitting and Civil team, which sends a maintenance crew to address the issue on a priority schedule based on criticality. Depending on the nature of the issue, our Permitting and Civil team also coordinates with our EHS team. Additionally, we have an automated process for reporting issues through our digital work environment to automatically notify the relevant response teams.

Decommissioning and Inactive Sites

Once site operations are complete, 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 the habitat, and prevention of invasive species. We work 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. We continue to monitor the site until the applicable state’s Department of Environmental Protection determines that we have met their requirements. This enables us to maintain positive relationships with landowners and communities, while also supporting biodiversity and habitat protection.

[1] We use U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey data to identify protected wetlands and land areas of high biodiversity. Source: https://www.fws.gov/wetlands/data/State-Downloads.htm; and https://www.usgs.gov/. We have certain leases that allow us to drill and develop deep shale formations outside of our primary operating areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The numbers provided in this table exclude acreage above such leased deep formation development rights located in states other than Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio as we do not currently drill these deep formation rights in states other than Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio nor do we have plans to develop these deep formation rights within the next five years.

How We Are Doing

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Evaluation of the management approach

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Habitats protected or restored

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IUCN Red List species and national conservation list species with habitats in areas affected by operations

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Percentage of (1) proved and (2) probable reserves in or near sites with protected conservation status or endangered species habitat

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We seek to prevent significant incidents by using best management practices to assess, monitor, and mitigate potential or actual impacts on biodiversity and land. Failure to do so can result in environmental violations, which we track closely to evaluate our performance. We measure our notice of violation rate as it applies to violations specific to earth disturbance, as a significant violation could prevent our future access to permits. In 2021, we received 66 notices of violations associated with biodiversity and land.

We also carefully track any impacts on biodiversity and habitats. We did not conduct surface operations on any land classified as a protected area or area of high biodiversity value in 2021 and, instead, used our horizontal drilling technology to extract resources from beneath these areas. In Pennsylvania, only one of our sites was identified as having the potential to impact a special concern species and, after a botanical survey was completed, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources determined that no impact to the species was anticipated. In West Virginia, all of our projects were properly coordinated with the U.S. FWS and only one of our sites was identified as potentially harmful to the threatened and endangered Indiana Bat. We developed an Indiana Bat conservation plan that included installation and monitoring of six bat boxes for two years by a qualified bat biologist for that site. We had no new construction projects in Ohio in 2021.

2021 Proved and Probable Reserves In or Near Protected Areas
 

2021

Percentage of proved reserves in or near sites with protected conservation status or endangered species habitat[1]

67.8%

Percentage of probable reserves in or near sites with protected conservation status or endangered species habitat[2]

68.6%

We also closely track and identify threatened and endangered species within our core operating area. Ten endangered species and three threatened species occupy habitats within our core operating area — covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects certain species that use our core operating area as either breeding grounds or seasonal habitat. Additionally, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act protects Bald and Golden Eagles, which nest in the area. The following table summarizes the species of concern located within our core operating area.

2021 U.S. FWS Threatened and Endangered Species — Core Operating Area
 

Animal

Plant

Endangered

  • Indiana Bat
  • Clubshell Mussel
  • Fanshell Mussel
  • Northern Riffleshell Mussel
  • Pink Mucket Mussel
  • Purple Cat's Paw Mussel
  • Rayed Bean Mussel
  • Sheepnoose Mussel
  • Sunffbox Mussel

Northern Bulrush

Threatened

  • Northern Long-eared Bat
  • Eastern Massasauga Snake
  • Rabbitsfoot Mussel
 

Not applicable

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

 
  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
 

Not applicable

We continuously work to improve our biodiversity and land protection processes in alignment with regulatory requirements and industry best practices. In 2021, we continued to use a benchmark established by our Civil and Permitting team to better understand how quickly we address and solve issues identified by monitoring crews. The team uses this data to better define priority levels and identify solutions that enable our maintenance teams to respond to issues more efficiently.

We are also exploring additional opportunities to minimize our land impact. As described in Water, we are connecting more sites with water pipelines to allow us to eliminate unnecessary water impoundments and reduce road traffic from water hauling. In 2021, we continued our investment in combo-development to achieve our production volume target with fewer sites — with approximately 80% of our planned development through 2026 scheduled for combo-development. Combined with maximizing lateral footage of our wells (horizontal drilling), we can further reduce our impact on land. For every site we eliminate, we estimate we will prevent 40 to 50 acres of tree clearing and grading and reduce associated road impacts.

[1] Calculated based on the location of protected areas (with a 5-kilometer buffer around such locations) identified on the U.S. Geological Survey map (https://maps.usgs.gov/padus/), and surveys maintained by Protected Planet (https://www.protectedplanet.net/en/thematic-areas/wdpa?tab=WDPA) and the National Audubon Society (https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas), mapped against the location of EQT’s proved reserves.

[2] Calculated based on the location of protected areas (with a 5-kilometer buffer around such locations) identified on the U.S. Geological Survey map (https://maps.usgs.gov/padus/), and surveys maintained by Protected Planet (https://www.protectedplanet.net/en/thematic-areas/wdpa?tab=WDPA) and the National Audubon Society (https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas), mapped against the location of EQT’s probable reserves.

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