Hydraulic fracturing in the United States

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Environmental Protection Agency illustration of the water cycle of hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing in the United States began in 1949.[1] According to the Department of Energy (DOE), as of 2013 at least two million oil and gas wells in the US have been hydraulically fractured, and that of new wells being drilled, up to 95% are hydraulically fractured. The output from these wells makes up 43% of the oil production and 67% of the natural gas production in the United States.[2] Environmental safety and health concerns about hydraulic fracturing emerged in the 1980s, and are still being debated at the state and federal levels.[3][4][5]

History[edit]

Non-hydraulic fracturing[edit]

Fracturing as a method to stimulate shallow, hard rock oil wells dates back to the 1860s. Oil producers in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and West Virginia used nitroglycerin (liquid at first, and later solid) to break up the oil-bearing formation. The method was later applied to water and natural gas wells.[1] The idea of using acid as a nonexplosive fluid for well stimulation was introduced in the 1930s. Acid etching kept fractures open and enhanced productivity. Water injection and squeeze cementing (injection of cement slurry) had a similar effect.[1]

Hydraulic fracturing in quarrying[edit]

The first industrial use of hydraulic fracturing was as early as 1903, according to T.L. Watson.[6] Before that date, hydraulic fracturing was used at Mt. Airy Quarry, near Mt Airy, North Carolina where it was (and still is) used to separate granite blocks from bedrock.[citation needed]

Hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas wells[edit]

The relationship between well performance and treatment pressures was studied by Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation. This study became a basis of the first hydraulic fracturing experiment, which was conducted in 1947 at the Hugoton gas field in Grant County of southwestern Kansas by Stanolind.[1][7] For the well treatment 1,000 US gallons (3,800 l; 830 imp gal) of gelled gasoline and sand from the Arkansas River was injected into the gas-producing limestone formation at 2,400 feet (730 m). The experiment was not very successful as deliverability of the well did not change appreciably. The process was further described by J.B. Clark of Stanolind in his paper published in 1948. A patent on this process was issued in 1949 and an exclusive license was granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. On March 17, 1949, Halliburton performed the first two commercial hydraulic fracturing treatments in Stephens County, Oklahoma, and Archer County, Texas.[1] The practice caught on quickly, and in 1965, a US Bureau of Mines publication wrote of hydraulic fracturing: "Many fields are in existence today because of these fracturing techniques for, without them, many producing horizons would have been bypassed in the past 15 years as either barren or commercially nonproductive."[8]

Massive hydraulic fracturing[edit]

Tight non-shale gas plays using massive hydraulic fracturing

In the 1960s, American geologists became increasingly aware of huge volumes of gas-saturated rocks with permeability too low (generally less than 0.1 millidarcy) to recover the gas economically. The US government experimented with using underground nuclear explosions to fracture the rock and enable gas recovery from the rock. Such explosions were tried in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico (Project Gasbuggy, 1967), and the Piceance Basin of Western Colorado (Project Rulison, 1969, and Project Rio Blanco, 1973) but the results were disappointing, and the tests were halted. The petroleum industry turned to the new massive hydraulic fracturing technique as the way to recover tight gas.[9]

The definition of massive hydraulic fracturing varies somewhat, but is generally used for treatments injecting greater than about 300,000 pounds of proppant (136 tonnes).[9] Pan American Petroleum applied the first massive hydraulic fracturing (also known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing) treatment in the non-communist world to a well in Stephens County, Oklahoma in 1968. The treatment injected half a million pounds of proppant into the rock formation.[1]

In 1973, Amoco introduced massive hydraulic fracturing to the Wattenberg Gas Field of the Denver Basin of Colorado, to recover gas from the low-permeability J Sandstone. Before massive hydraulic fracturing, the Wattenberg field was uneconomic. Injected volumes of 132,000 or more gallons, and 200,000 or more pounds of sand proppant, succeeded in recovering much greater volumes of gas than had been previously possible.[10] In 1974, Amoco performed the first million-pound frac job, injecting more than a million pounds of proppant into the J Sand of a well in Wattenberg Field.[11]

The success of massive hydraulic fracturing in the Wattenberg Field of Colorado was followed in the late 1970s by its use in gas wells drilled to tight sandstones of the Mesaverde Group of the Piceance Basin of western Colorado.[12]

Starting in the 1970s. thousands of tight-sandstone gas wells in the US were stimulated by massive hydraulic fracturing. Examples of areas made economic by the technology include the Clinton-Medina Sandstone play in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York; the San Juan Basin in New Mexico and Colorado; numerous fields in the Green River Basin of Wyoming; and the Cotton Valley Sandstone trend of Louisiana and Texas.[9]

Hydraulic fracturing in coalbed methane wells[edit]

Coalbed methane wells, which first began to be drilled in the 1980s, are commonly hydraulically fractured to increase the flow rates to the well. Hydraulic fracturing is commonly used in some coalbed methane areas, such as the Black Warrior Basin and the Raton Basin, but not in others, such as the Powder River Basin, depending on the local geology. Injected volumes tend to be much smaller than those of either tight gas wells or shale gas wells; a 2004 EPA study found a median injected volume of 57,500 US gallons (218,000 l; 47,900 imp gal) for coalbed methane wells.[13]

Massive hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells[edit]

Horizontal oil or gas wells were unusual until the 1980s. Then in the late 1980s, operators along the Texas Gulf Coast began completing thousands of oil wells by drilling horizontally in the Austin Chalk, and giving massive slickwater hydraulic fracturing treatments to the wellbores. Horizontal wells proved much more effective than vertical wells in producing oil from the tight chalk.[14]

Hydraulic fracturing in shales[edit]

A hydraulic fracturing operation at a Marcellus Shale well

In 1976 the United States government started the Eastern Gas Shales Project, a set of dozens of public-private hydro-fracturing pilot demonstration projects.[2] During the same period, the Gas Research Institute, a gas industry research consortium, received approval for research and funding from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.[15]

In 1997, Mitchell Energy, now part of Devon Energy, took the hydraulic fracturing technique known as "slickwater fracturing," which had previously been successfully used in the Cotton Valley formation by Union Pacific Resources, now part of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, and applied it to the Barnett Shale of north Texas. The success of the technique in the Barnett was copied and adapted to other shales in the US.[16][17][18]

Between 2005 and 2010 the shale-gas industry in the United States grew by 45% a year. As a proportion of the country's overall gas production, shale gas increased from 4% in 2005 to 24% in 2012.[19]

According to oilfield services company Halliburton, as of 2013 more than 1.1 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been done in the United States (some wells are hydraulically fractured more than once), and almost 90% of new US onshore oil and gas wells are hydraulically fractured.[20]

Typical extraction process[edit]

The process of extracting shale oil or gas typically has several stages, including some legal preliminaries. First, a company must negotiate the mineral rights with the owners.[21]:44

After a company has leased the mineral rights, it must obtain a permit to drill a well.[21]:44 Permits are regulated by state agencies and the requirements vary.[22] Once it has obtained the permit, the company clears an area of 4–5 acres for a stage bed; it may also construct roads, a waste water site, and a temporary gas storage facility. Next is the drilling and casing of the well. In a process similar to that for constructing water wells, a bore machine drills vertically in the ground, and two or more steel casings are set in the well in a reverse telescope manner.[23] The casing helps keep the well open by providing structural support and preventing fluid and gas flow into the surrounding ground. Once the casing is in place, cement is pumped down inside the casing and back up on the outside of the casing. This is done to cement the casing in the formation and to prevent any leakage or flow of the gas and fluids behind the casing.[24]

The next step is the fracturing itself. A mixture of water and chemical additives are pumped down the well at high pressure. This creates fractures in the rock, and a proppant such as sand is injected to keep the fracture open. This allows the natural gas to flow to the well and up to the surface. The fracturing phase takes a few days.[21]

After all this preparation, the well has a few years of production where natural gas is brought to the surface, treated, and carried off. This may be punctuated by workovers during which the well is cleaned and maintained to increase production. When the well has been exhausted, it is plugged. The area around it is restored to the level required by state standards and the agreement with the owner.[21]

Economic impact[edit]

Oil and gas supply[edit]

EIA forecast for US oil production through 2040.[25]:1
EIA forecast for US gas production through 2040.[25]:2

Of US gas production in 2010, 26 percent came from tight sandstone reservoirs and 23 percent from shales, for a total of 49 percent.[26] As production increased, there was less need for imports: in 2012, the US imported 32% less natural gas than it had in 2007.[27] In 2013, the US Energy Information Administration projected that imports will continue to shrink and the US will become a net exporter of natural gas some time around 2020.[28]

Increased US oil production from hydraulically fractured tight oil wells was mostly responsible for the decrease in US oil imports since 2005 (decreased oil consumption was also an important component). The US imported 52% of its oil in 2011, down from 65% in 2005.[29] Hydraulically fractured wells in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and other tight oil targets, enabled US crude oil production to rise in September 2013 to the highest output since 1989.[30]

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing touted its potential to make the United States the world's largest oil producer and make it an energy leader,[31] a feat it achieved in November 2012 having already surpassed Russia as the world's leading gas producer.[32] Proponents say that hydraulic fracturing would give the United States energy independence.[33] In 2012, the International Energy Agency projected that the United States, now the world's third-largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, will see such an increase in oil from shales that the US will become the world's top oil producer by 2020.[34] In 2011 the US became the world's leading producer of natural gas when it outproduced Russia. In October 2013, The US Energy Information Administration projected that the US had surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the world's leading oil producer as well.[35]

Globally, gas use is expected to rise by more than 50% compared to 2010 levels, and account for over 25% of world energy demand in 2035.[36] Anticipated demand and higher prices abroad have motivated non-US companies to buy shares and invest in US gas and oil companies,[37][38] and in the case of the Norwegian company Statoil, to buy an American company with hydraulic fracturing expertise and US shale oil production.[39]

Some geologists say that the well productivity estimates are inflated and minimize the impact of the reduced productivity of wells after the first year or two.[40] A June 2011 New York Times investigation of industrial emails and internal documents found that the profitability of unconventional shale gas extraction may be less than previously thought, due to companies intentionally overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. The same article said, "Many people within the industry remain confident." T. Boone Pickens said that he was not worried about shale companies and that be believed they would make good money if prices rise. Pickens also said that technological advances, such as the repeated hydrofracking of wells, was making production cheaper. Some companies that specialize in shale gas have shifted to areas where the gas in natural gas liquids such as propane and butane.[41][42]

Gas price[edit]

Comparison of natural gas prices in Japan, United Kingdom, and United States, 2007-2011

According to the World Bank, as of November 2012, the increased gas production due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the US had driven US gas prices down to 29% of natural gas prices in Europe, and to one-fifth of natural gas prices in Japan.[43] Lower natural gas prices in the US have encouraged the replacement of coal- with gas-fired power plants, but have also discouraged the switch to renewable sources of energy.[44] Facing a supply glut and consequent further price drops in 2012, some large US gas producers announced plans to cut natural gas production; however, production rates rose to all-time highs, and natural gas prices remained near ten-year lows.[45] The high price of gas overseas has provided a strong incentive for producers to export it.[46]

Exports[edit]

In 2012, the U.S. imported 3,135 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas and exported 1,619 Bcf. Of the exports, 1,591 Bcf was sent by pipeline to Canada and Mexico; 18 Bcf was re-exports of foreign shipments (bought at low prices and then held until the price went up); and the remaining 9.5 Bcf was exported as liquefied natural gas (LNG) - natural gas that has been liquefied by cooling to about -161 degrees Celsius, reducing the volume by a factor of 600.[47]

The US has two export terminals, one owned by Cheniere Energy in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, and a ConocoPhillips terminal in North Cook Inlet, Alaska.[46] Companies that wish to export LNG must pass a two-step regulatory process required by the Natural Gas Act of 1938. First, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) must certify that the project is consistent with the public interest. This approval is automatic for export to the twenty countries that have a free trade agreement with the United States.[47][48] Applications for export to non-FTA countries are published in the Federal Register and public comment is invited; but the burden of proof for any public harm rests with opponents of the application, so opposition by groups such as the Sierra Club[49] has so far not blocked any approvals.[47] In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must conduct an environmental review and approve the export facility. As of 2013, only one facility – the Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, run by Cheniere Energy – had both DOE and FERC approval and was under construction. Three others – Trunkline LNG in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Dominion Cove Point LNG in Lusby, Maryland; and a terminal in Freeport, Texas – have DOE approval and await FERC approval.[47] On January 30, 2014, Cheniere Energy signed an agreement to supply 3.5 million tons to Korean Gas Corporation.[50]

A partnership of three companies (UGI Corporation, Inergy Midstream L.P. and Capitol Energy Ventures) has proposed building a new pipeline connecting the Marcellus Shale formation with markets in Pennsylvania and Maryland.[51][52][53] The pipeline would also supply LNG export terminals in Maryland.[50]

Critics have charged that exporting LNG could threaten the national energy security provided by gas from hydraulically fractured shale gas wells.[50]

Jobs[edit]

Economic effects of hydraulic fracturing include an increase in jobs, and an increase in business. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that it is unclear on a local level how and for how long hydraulic fracturing affects a community economically. It is hypothesized that hydraulic fracturing may not provide jobs to local communities due to the specialized nature of hydraulic fracturing tasks. Also, communities’ local resources could potentially be taxed due to the increase in industry traffic or if an accident occurs.[54]

Property owners[edit]

In most countries mineral rights belong to the government, but in the United States the default ownership is fee simple, meaning that a land owner also has the rights to the subsurface and the air above the property.[55] However, the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916 split the ownership, reserving mineral rights for the federal government in large parts of western states. The owners of the rights can also choose to split the rights.[56] Since the fracking boom started, home builders and developers – including D. R. Horton, the nation's biggest home builder; Ryland Homes; Pulte Homes; and Beazer Homes USA – have retained the subsurface rights to tens of thousands of homes in states where shale plays exist or are possible. In most states, they are not legally required to disclose this, and many of the home buyers are unaware they do not own the mineral rights.[57] Under split estate law, the surface owner must allow the mineral rights owner reasonable access. Protections for the surface owner vary; in some states an agreement is required that compensates them for the use of the land and reclaims the land after extraction is complete.[21]:45

Since the presence of oil or gas is uncertain, the company usually signs a lease with a signing bonus and a percentage of the value at the wellhead as a royalty.[55] Concerns have been raised regarding the terms and clarity of the leases energy companies are signing with landowners, as well as the manner in which they are sold and the tactics used by companies in implementing them.[58]

A well on one property can drain oil or gas from neighboring properties, and horizontal drilling can facilitate this. In some parts of the U.S., the rule of capture gives the landowner rights to any resources they extract from their well.[59]:21 Other states have unitization rules for sharing royalties based on the geometries of the reservoir and the property lines above it.[55]

A lease of oil and gas rights violates the terms of many mortgage agreements, including those used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, because it devalues the property and allows hazardous materials on the property. As a result, some banks are refusing to make mortgages on land if with such a lease.[60][61][62]

Nationwide Insurance does not cover hydraulic fracturing related damage because it considered the risks of problems like water contamination made the financial exposure too great. However, to date there have been no substantial claims that targeted companies other than those owning or operating wells.[63]

Water use[edit]

Massive hydraulic fracturing uses millions of gallons of water per treatment, raising concerns of creating or aggravating water shortages.

  • The Colorado Division of Water Resources reported that hydraulic fracturing in that state used 4.53 billion gallons in 2010, which was 0.08% of total water use in Colorado.[64]
  • In Pennsylvania, the water used in hydraulic fracturing in 2011 was 690 million gallons, or 0.2% of total use in the state.[65]
  • Hydraulic fracturing in Texas used 11.7 billion gallons in 2008, 0.20% of total use statewide.[66] In south Texas, home to the hydraulically fractured Eagle Ford Formation, the portion of water use for oil and gas well drilling and completion was six percent as of January 2012, compared to 64% for irrigation, and 17% for municipal use.[67]

Environmental and health impact[edit]

Schematic depiction of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, showing potential environmental effects.

Potential environmental effects of hydraulic fracking include contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the resulting effects on health such as an increased rate of cancer.[68][69] There is already evidence of environmental contamination,[70][71][72][73] and it has been predicted that exposure to chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluid will increase as gas wells using this technology proliferate.[69] Gas drilling companies are reluctant to reveal the proprietary substances in the fluid.[74] There are concerns that information about negative impacts are being suppressed by state governments.[3] The list of additives for hydraulic fracturing includes kerosene, benzene, tolulene, xylene, and formaldehyde.[75]

In April 2011, the Ground Water Protection Council launched FracFocus.org, an online voluntary disclosure database for hydraulic fracturing fluids. The site is funded by oil and gas trade groups and the DOE. The site has been met with some skepticism[76] relating to proprietary information that is not included, although President Obama's energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal has said of the database: “As an administration, we believe that FracFocus is an important tool that provides transparency to the American people.” [77] At least five states – including Colorado [78] and Texas – have mandated fluid disclosure [79] and incorporated FracFocus as the tool for disclosure. As of March 2013, FracFocus had more than 40,000 searchable well records on its site.

The FracTracker Alliance, a non-profit organization, provides oil and gas-related data storage, analyses, and online and customized maps related to hydraulic fracturing. Their website, FracTracker.org, also includes a photo library and resource directory. [80][81]

EPA hydraulic fracturing study[edit]

In 2010 Congress requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undertake a new, broader study of hydraulic fracturing. The report is slated for release in 2012.[82] The purpose of the study is to examine the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the water supply, specifically for human consumption. The research aims to examine the full scope of the water pathway as it moves through the hydraulic fracturing process, including water that is used for the construction of the wells, the fracturing mixture, and subsequent removal and disposal. Fundamental research questions include:[83]

  • How might large volume water withdrawals from ground and surface water impact drinking water resources?
  • What are the possible impacts of releases of flowback and produced water on drinking water resources?
  • What are the possible impacts of inadequate treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewaters on drinking water resources?

The Scientific Advisory Board reviewed the study plan in early March 2011. In June 2011, the EPA announced the locations of its five retrospective case studies, which will examine existing hydrofracking sites for evidence of drinking water contamination. They are:[84]

Dr. Robin Ikeda, Deputy Director of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health at the CDC noted that none of the following EPA investigation sites were included in the final version of EPA’s Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources: Dimock, Pennsylvania; LeRoy, Pennsylvania; Pavillion, Wyoming; Medina, Ohio; Garfield County, Colorado.[85]

Research should be completed by the end of 2012, and the EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing Report is expected to be completed in 2014.

Industry forces applied pressure to exclude the study of tracer isotopes from the study.[86] The study's Science Advisory Board advised the EPA to delete proposed toxicity tests from the study scope, due to limited time and funds.[87] However, some members of the Science Advisory Board (SAB) urged the SAB to advise the EPA to reinstate the toxicity testing of frack chemicals.[86] Chesapeake Energy agreed,[88] stating “an in-depth study of toxicity, the development of new analytical methods and tracers are not practical given the budget and schedule limitation of the study.”[86] Thus, despite concerns about the elevated levels of iodine-131 (a radioactive tracer used in hydraulic fracturing) in drinking water in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, downstream from hydraulic fracturing sites,[89][90][91][92] iodine-131 is not listed among the chemicals to be monitored in the draft plan for the study. Other known radioactive tracers used in hydraulic fracturing[93][94][95] but not listed as chemicals to be studied include isotopes of gold, xenon, rubidium, iridium, scandium, and krypton.[96]

The EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Draft Study Plan can be found here.[97]

Well blowouts and spills of fracturing fluids[edit]

A well blowout in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania on June 3, 2010, sent more than 35,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids into the air and onto the surrounding landscape in a forested area. Campers were evacuated and the company EOG Resources and the well completion company C.C. Forbes were ordered to cease all operations in the state of Pennsylvania pending investigation. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection called it a "serious incident".[98][99]

Natural gas drilling and seismic events[edit]

Injection of fluid into subsurface geological structures, such as faults and fractures, reduces the effective normal stress acting across these structures. If sufficient shear stress is present, the structure may slip in shear and generate seismic events over a range of magnitudes; natural gas drilling may have caused earthquakes in North Texas.[100] Subsidence is not directly caused by hydraulic fracturing but may occur after considerable production of oil or ground water. Oil, and, less commonly, gas extraction, has caused land subsidence in a small percentage of fields. Significant subsidence has been observed only where the hydrocarbon reservoir is very thick, shallow, and composed of loose or weakly cemented rock.[101] Subsidence occurs over reservoirs whether they have been subject to hydraulic fracturing or not because it is a result of producing fluids from the reservoir and lowering the reservoir pore pressure. The subsidence process can be associated with some seismicity. Reports of minor tremors of no greater than 2.8 on the Richter scale were reported on June 2, 2009 in Cleburne, Texas, the first in the town's 140-year history.[102]

Fracking connected to deep well waste water disposal has been banned in Arkansas due to the risk of contaminating aquifers if the earthquakes it induced continued.[103] The U.S. Geological Survey is working on ways to head off quakes from wastewater wells.[104]

Air and health[edit]

Many particulates and chemicals can be released into the atmosphere during the process of hydraulic fracturing, such as sulfuric oxide, nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOC), benzene, toluene, diesel fuel, hydrogen sulfide which can have serious health implications. A study conducted between August 2011 and July 2012 as part of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) found chemical contaminants in the air and water of rural communities affected by the Shale extraction process in central New York and Pennsylvania. The study found disproportionately high numbers of adverse health effects in children and adults in those communities.[105]

A potential hazard that is commonly overlooked is the venting of bulk sand silos directly to atmosphere. When they are being filled, or emptied during the fracture job, a fine cloud of silica particulate will be vented directly into atmosphere. This dust has the potential to travel many kilometers on the wind directly into populated areas. While the immediate personnel are wearing personal protective equipment, other people in the area of a well fracture can potentially be exposed.[106]

A 2012 study out of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine by Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, and veterinarian Michelle Bamberger, DVM, soon to be published in 'New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,' suggests that hydraulic fracking is sickening and killing cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, as well as humans. The study covered cases in Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.[74] The case studies include reports of sick animals, stunted growth, and dead animals after exposure to hydraulic fracturing spills from dumping of the fluid into streams and from workers slitting the lining of a wastewater impoundment (evaporation ponds) so that it would drain and be able to accept more waste. The researchers stated that it was difficult to assess health impact because of the industry's strategic lobbying efforts that resulted in legislation allowing them to keep the proprietary chemicals in the fluid secret, protecting them from being held legally responsible for contamination. Bamberger stated that if you don't know what chemicals are, you can't conduct pre-drilling tests and establish a baseline to prove that chemicals found postdrilling are from hydraulic fracturing.[74] The researchers recommended requiring disclosure of all hydraulic fracturing fluids, that nondisclosure agreements not be allowed when public health is at risk, testing animals raised near hydraulic fracturing sites and animal products (milk, cheese, etc.) from animal raised near hydraulic fracturing sites prior to selling them to market, monitoring of water, soil and air more closely, and testing the air, water, soil and animals prior to drilling and at regular intervals thereafter.[74]

CNN has reported flammable tap water in homes located near hydrofracking sites in Portage County, Ohio.[107] On October 18, 2013 the Ohio Department of Natural Resource-Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management found that the Kline's pre-drilling water sample showed methane was present in August 2012 before gas wells were drilled near their home. The report further states the gas was microbial in origin and not thermogenic like gas produced from gas wells.[108] Research done by the ODNR found documentation of natural gas and crude oil being encountered in the aquifers of Nelson and Windham Townships of Portage County, Ohio.<[108]

A 2014 study of households using groundwater near active natural gas drilling in Washington County, Pennsylvania found that upper respiratory illnesses and skin diseases were much more prevalent closer to fracking activity. Respiratory problems were found in 18% of the population 1.2 miles or more from drilling, compared to 39% of those within 0.6 miles of new natural gas wells. People with clinically significant skin problems increased from 3% to 13% over the same distances.[109]

Workplace safety[edit]

The EPA states in their Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan (2011) that the exposure to hydraulic fracturing chemicals in an occupational setting needs to be examined to determine the acute and chronic effects on health. The exposure risks such as “transport, mixing, delivery, and potential accidents” have not been properly assessed (p. 57).[54]

A study by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, concluded that an inhalation health hazard existed for workers exposed to crystalline silica (sand dust) at the evaluated hydraulic fracturing sites. NIOSH notified company representatives of these findings and provided reports with recommendations to control exposure to crystalline silica. NIOSH recommended that all hydraulic fracturing sites evaluate their operations to determine the potential for worker exposure to crystalline silica and implement controls as necessary to protect workers.[110] Hydraulic fracturing also affects individuals nearby, like the case previously discussed about the nurse who became ill after exposure from treating a hydraulic fracturing worker (Frankowski, 2008).[54][111]

A 2012 OSH article outlined the risk of worker radiation exposure.[112]

Lawsuits[edit]

In September 2010, a lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania alleging that Southwestern Energy Company contaminated aquifers through a defective cement casing in the well.[113] In June 2011, Northeast Natural Energy sued the town of Morgantown, West Virginia, for its ban on hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale within a mile of the town's borders. The ban had been initiated to protect the municipal water supply as well as the town's inhabitants, in the absence at the state level of regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing.[114] There have been other cases as well. After court cases concerning contamination from hydraulic fracturing are settled, the documents are sealed, and information regarding contamination is not available to researchers or the public. While the American Petroleum Institute deny that this practice has hidden problems with gas drilling, others believe it has and could lead to unnecessary risks to public safety and health.[4]

Regulation[edit]

The number of proposed state regulations related to hydraulic fracturing has dramatically increased since 2005. The majority specifically address one aspect of natural gas drilling, for example wastewater treatment, though some are more comprehensive and consider multiple regulatory concerns.[115]

The regulation and implementation process of hydraulic fracturing is a complex process involving many groups, stakeholders, and impacts. The EPA has the power to issue permits for drilling and underground injection, and to set regulations for the treatment of waste at the federal level. However, the scope of its authority is debated, and the oil and gas industry is considering lawsuits if guidance from the EPA is overly broad. States are required to comply with federal law and the regulations set by the EPA. States, however, have the power to regulate the activities of certain companies and industries within their borders - they can create safety plans and standards, management and disposal regulations, and public notice and disclosure requirements. Land-use ordinances, production standards, and safety regulations can be set by local governments, but the extent of their authority (including their power to regulate gas drilling) is determined by state law.[116] Pennsylvania’s Act 13 is an example of how state law can prohibit local regulation of hydraulic fracturing industries. In states including Ohio and New Mexico, the power to regulate is limited by trade secret provisions and other exemptions exist that preclude companies from disclosing the exact chemical content of their fluids.[117] Other challenges include abandoned or undocumented wells and hydraulic fracturing sites, regulatory loopholes in EPA and state policies, and inevitable limitations to the enforcement of these laws.[118]

Federal versus state regulation debate[edit]

There is discussion regarding whether control of hydraulic fracturing should be at the state or federal level.[119][120] Advocates of state level control of energy sources (e.g., oil, gas, wind and solar), argue that a state approach allows each state to create regulations and review processes that fit the states' particular geology, ecology and citizen concerns.[120] Critics say that this would create a patchwork of inconsistent regulations.[119] They also note that the components and consequences of energy development (e.g., emissions, commerce, wastewater, earthquakes, and radiation) may cross states lines, and argue that regulations need to consider the overall impact on all states. This would require regulation at the federal level. Local and state governments may also lack resources to initiate and defend against corporate legal action related to hydraulic fracturing.[121][122]

Those supporting federal regulation think that it will provide more consistent, uniform standards.[119] They say that there is a need for national environment and public health standards, including those related to water and air pollution (e.g., public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, protection of drinking water sources, and control of air pollutants).[119][120] A compromise approach called, "cooperative federalism" has been proposed for hydraulic fracturing. This approach has been used for coal since 1977. In this approach, the federal government sets baseline standards rather than detailed specifications, which allows states more flexibility in how they meet the standards. It would require the government to remove the regulatory exemptions for hydraulic fracturing (e.g., the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted oil and gas producers from certain requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act), and develop a comprehensive set of regulations for the industry.[119][123]

The EPA and the industry group the American Petroleum Institute each provided grants to fund the organization State Review of Oil and Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER), to promote better state oversight of oil and gas environmental issues. The organization, at the invitation of various states, reviews their oil and gas environmental regulations in general, and hydraulic fracturing regulations in particular, and recommends improvements. As of 2013, STRONGER has reviewed hydraulic fracturing regulations in six states: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania (reviews available on the STRONGER website).[124]

The state level of regulation sets a lower standard of regulation in terms of environmental issues than the federal one for different reasons. Firstly, states only have legislative power over their territory so the potential area affected by regulation is smaller than the federal one. Related to that, we can note that the EPA has power over cross-state resources such as rivers, thus a bigger regulative power. Secondly, environmental issues at the scale of states are usually related to energetic and economic issues through energy administrations, leaving the environmental impact behind economic considerations whereas the EPA's unique mandate concerns environmental issues, regardless of their economic or energetic aspect, since it is more independent from energy administrations.[125] State regulations are therefore considered to be weaker than federal ones. Thirdly, state-level policies are more subject to majority changes and lobbying whereas federal agencies work independently from Congress and thus deliver more continuity in terms of policy-making.[125]

The academic literature has increasingly stressed the opposite regulatory agendas of natural gas advocates and environmentalists.[125] Environmentalists and the supporters of a precautionary approach have advocated federal and powerful inter-state regulation as well as democratic empowerment of local communities. They have therefore supported inter-state organizations that gather state and federal actors such as the Delaware River Basin Commission when “natural gas policy” ones did not include federal actors. However, natural gas advocates have backed state-level and weak inter-state regulations and the withdrawal of regulatory powers such as zoning from local communities and institutions. They have only admitted a support to certain interstate organizations, but to the ones that pledge for weak regulations and which do not include heavy regulatory powers such as the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.[125] Additionally, proponents of state over federal regulation argue that states, with local and historical knowledge of their unique landscapes, are better able to create effective policy than any standardized federal mandate. Congress as well as industry leaders have had an impact on the regulatory exemptions of hydraulic fracturing and continue to be the dominant voice in determining regulation in the United States.

Federal[edit]

Hydraulic fracturing has known impacts on the environment and potential unknown direct or indirect impacts on the environment and human health. It is therefore part of the EPA's area of regulation. The EPA assures surveillance of the issuance of drilling permits when hydraulic fracturing companies employ diesel fuel. This is its main regulatory activity but it has been importantly reduced in its scope by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that excluded hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control’s regulation, except when diesel is used.[126] This has raised concerns about the efficiency of permit issuance control. In addition to this mission, the EPA works with states to provide safe disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, has partnerships with other administrations and companies to reduce the air emissions from hydraulic fracturing, particularly from methane employed in the process, and tries to ensure both compliance to regulatory standards and transparency for all stakeholders implied in the implementation process of hydraulic fracturing.

On August 7, 1997, the Eleventh Circuit Court ordered the United States Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate its stance on hydraulic fracturing based on a lawsuit brought by the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation. Until that decision, the EPA deemed that hydraulic fracturing did not fall under the rules in the Safe Drinking Water Act.[127] While the impact of this decision was localized to Alabama, it forced the EPA to evaluate its oversight responsibility under the Safe Drinking Water Act for hydraulic fracturing. In 2004, the EPA released a study that concluded the threat to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing was “minimal”. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress exempted fractured wells from being re-classified as injection wells, which fall under a part of the Safe Drinking Water Act that was originally intended to regulate disposal wells.[128][129] The act did not exempt fracking wells that include diesel fuel in the fracturing fluid. Some US House members have petitioned the EPA to interpret "diesel fuel" broadly to increase the agency's regulatory power over hydraulic fracturing. They argue that the current limitation is intended not to prevent the use of a small subset of diesel compounds, but rather as a safety measure to decrease the probability of accidental groundwater contamination with toxic BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) that are present in diesel compounds.[130] Congress has been urged to repeal the 2005 regulatory exemption under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.[131] The FRAC Act, introduced in June 2009, would eliminate the exemption and might allow producing wells to be reclassified as injection wells placing them under federal jurisdiction in states without approved UIC programs.

In November 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was considering to study a potential link between fracturing and drinking water contamination. Republican House energy leaders advised Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be cautious in the study. They argued the study, if not properly done, could hinder job growth. They worried that the study could label naturally occurring substances in groundwater as contaminants, that the CDC would limit hydraulic fracturing in the interest of public health, and that the "scientific objectivity of the [HHS] [wa]s being subverted" as the CDC was considering whether to study the question.[132][133]

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said the EPA would use its power to protect residents if drillers endangered water supplies and state and local authorities did not take action.[134]

Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act[edit]

Congress has been urged to repeal the 2005 regulatory exemption under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by supporting The FRAC Act, introduced in June 2009, but has so far refused.[131] In June 2009 two identical bills named the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act were introduced to both the United States House and the Senate. The House bill was introduced by representatives Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Maurice Hinchey D-N.Y., and Jared Polis, D-Colo. The Senate version was introduced by senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. These bills are designed to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act. This would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate hydraulic fracturing that occurs in states which have not taken primacy in UIC regulation. The bill required the energy industry to reveal what chemicals are being used in the sand-water mixture. The 111th United States Congress adjourned on January 3, 2011, without taking any significant action on the FRAC Act. The FRAC Act was re-introduced in both houses of the 112th United States Congress. In the Senate, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced S. 587 on March 15, 2011.[135] In the House, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced H.R. 1084 on March 24, 2011.[136] As of March 2012 Congress had not yet passed either of The FRAC Act bills.[137][138] The oil and gas industry contributes heavily to campaign funds.[139]

Federal lands[edit]

In May 2012, the Department of Interior released updated regulations on fracking, for wells on federal lands. However, Guggenheim Washington Research Group found that only about 5% of the shale wells drilled in the past 10 years were on federal land.[140]

Voluntary disclosure of additives[edit]

In April 2011, the Ground Water Protection Council, in conjunction with the industry, began releasing well-by-well lists of hydraulic fracturing chemicals at [6].[141] Disclosure is still on a voluntary basis; companies are still not required to provide information about their hydraulic fracturing techniques and fluids that they consider to be proprietary.[142] Lists do not include all substances used; a complete listing of the specific chemical formulation of additives used in hydraulic fracturing operations is still not currently made available to landowners, neighbors, local officials, or health care providers, let alone the public. This practice is under scrutiny.[citation needed] Two studies released in 2009, one by the DOE and the other released by the Ground Water Protection Council, discuss hydraulic fracturing safety concerns.[citation needed] Chemicals which can be used in the fracturing fluid include kerosene, benzene, toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde.[68][143]

State and local[edit]

The controversy over hydraulic fracturing has led to legislation and court cases over primacy of state regulation versus the rights of local governments to regulate or ban oil and gas drilling. Some states have introduced legislation that limits the ability of municipalities to use zoning to protect citizens from exposure to pollutants from hydraulic fracturing by protecting residential areas. Such laws have been created in Pennsylvania, Ohio,[144] and New York,[145] Colorado, and Texas are battling over related legislation.[146]

Local regulations can be a dominant force in enacting drilling ordinances, creating safety standards and production regulations, and enforcing particular standards. However, in many cases state law can intervene and dominate local law. In Texas, the Railroad Commission of Texas has the authority to regulate certain industries and the specifics of their safety standards and production regulations.[116] In this case, the state determined the zoning, permitting, production, delivery, and safety standards.

In New York, local land use laws are considered in state regulations, and in Pennsylvania, the state's Oil and Gas Act superseded all local ordinances purporting to regulate gas well operations.” [116] Additionally, Los Angeles has recently become the largest city in the US to pass a hydraulic fracturing moratorium.[147]

Alaska[edit]

Hydraulic fracturing conducted at the North Slope and the Kenai Peninsula on the South coast of Alaska. Due to potential harm to the Alaska's fragile environment, there have been hearings for new laws and regulations for this type of oil extraction in Alaska.

California[edit]

In May 2012 the California Senate defeated a bill, introduced by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), requiring drillers to notify local property owners and water authorities in advance that hydraulic fracturing was going to occur, and requiring the testing of groundwater before and after the hydraulic fracturing to determine whether contamination had occurred. Pavley said that this monitoring and reporting approach would help to address citizens' concerns. The state Senate defeated the bill in a bipartisan 18-17 vote.[148]

The California legislature passed Senate Bill 4 to regulate fracking in September 2013. The bill, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, provided for disclosure of chemical used, pre-testing of nearby water wells, and a study on environmental and safety issues.[149] These regulations, which will go into effect on January 1, 2015, require “oil companies to obtain permits for fracking as well as acidizing, the use of hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals to dissolve shale rock.” [150] Democratic Senator Fran Pavley, who introduced the bill, hoped that it would comprehensively regulate and oversee hydraulic fracturing, as well as create transparency for the public.[151] The bill seemed to be a step in the right direction for environmentalists, but some criticized the bill as being too lax.[152] Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity said: “SB 4 was amended in the final hours of the legislative session to take it from to a bill that didn’t go far enough to protect Californians from fracking to a bill that actually gave away important protections to oil companies.” [151] Some environmentalists promised not to rest until fracking is banned completely. Oil industry representatives also criticized the bill as too restrictive. The measure was supported by state Sen. Fran Pavley, author of a fracking bill defeated the previous year.[151]

Municipal Level[edit]

Several cities within California are working toward banning or placing strict restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. The two cities most actively fighting fracking are Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Los Angeles is working toward a moratorium on fracking and Beverly Hills has banned the process altogether.[153]

Beverly Hills[edit]

Beverly Hills has become the first California Municipality to effectively ban hydraulic fracturing. The 21st of April was the initial council meeting in which members voted unanimously to ban fracking in their city. Along with members in the Beverly Hills' council, there were also anti-fracking representatives from other cities hoping to achieve similar outcomes. Environmentalists conclude that there is no safe way to frack and that the process can lead to air and water pollution, as well as an increase in earthquakes. For these reasons, fracking needs to be banned not just regulated.[154] The second and final vote to enact the ban on fracking was held on May 6. The vote was again unanimous, and Beverly Hills became the first city in California to actively ban the technique for extracting natural gas and oil. There were no official plans to implement fracking in Beverly Hills, but the process was taking place in surrounding areas in the Los Angeles county. The ban will take effect on June 6.[155]

Colorado[edit]

In November 2013, voters in three Colorado cities (Boulder, Fort Collins, and Loveland) approved ballot initiatives to impose or extend moratoria on hydraulic fracturing. At the same time, Broomfield voters narrowly defeated an anti-fracking initiative.[156]

Maryland[edit]

Governor Martin O'Malley has issued a hold on applications to drill in western Maryland until the completion of a three-year study of hydraulic fracturing's environmental impacts, thus creating a de facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Del. Heather Mizeur plans to introduce a bill formally banning hydraulic fracturing in Maryland until state officials can determine whether it can be done without harming drinking water or the environment. The gas industry has refused to fund the three-year study and opposed a bill sponsored by Mizeur to fund the study with fees on gas drilling leases. The industry has objected to paying for any studies unless it receives guarantees that it will eventually be able to drill for gas.[157]

New Jersey[edit]

In January 2012 Governor Chris Christie rejected a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey. The New Jersey Legislature accepted Governor Chris Christie's alternative recommendation for a one-year ban on hydraulic fracturing instead.[158] New Jersey does not have many shale reserves under the ground within its borders.[159] In September 2012 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed Senate bill (S253) that had passed by a margin of 30-5. The bill would have banned the treatment, discharge, disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing waste in New Jersey. Pennsylvania sends its waste to New Jersey companies interested in processing and disposing of waste water or "flowback" from hydraulic fracturing within the state.[159] Christie claimed Senate bill (S253) would undercut the state’s ongoing study of fracking, and would discriminate against other states, a violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause of U.S. Constitution.[159]

New York[edit]

The New York State assembly voted 93 to 43, 30 November 2010, to place a moratorium or freeze on hydraulic fracturing to give the state more time to undertake safety and environmental concerns.[160]

In September 2012, the Cuomo administration decided to wait until it completes a review of the potential public health effects of hydraulic fracturing before it allows high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. State legislators, medical societies and health experts pressed Joseph Martens, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, for an independent review of the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing by medical experts before any regulations are made final and drilling is allowed to start. Martens rejected commissioning an outside study. Instead, he appointed the health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, to assess the department's analysis of the health effects closely and said Shah could consult qualified outside experts for his review.[161]

Municipal Level[edit]

At the municipal level, some towns and cities in central New York state have moved to regulate drilling by hydraulic fracturing and its attendant effects, either by banning it within municipal limits, maintaining the option to do so in the future, or banning wastewater from the drilling process from municipal water treatment plants.[162]

New York City. The New York City watershed includes a large area of the Marcellus shale formation. The NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection's position: "While DEP is mindful of the potential economic opportunity that this represents for the State, hydraulic fracturing poses an unacceptable threat to the unfiltered water supply of nine million New Yorkers and cannot safely be permitted with the New York City watershed."[163]

Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls' City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits natural gas extraction in Niagara Falls, as well as the "storage, transfer, treatment or disposal of natural gas exploration and production wastes."[164] Elected officials there said that they didn't want their citizens, who experienced the Love Canal toxic waste crisis firsthand, to be guinea pigs for hydraulic fracturing, the new technology used in gas drilling operations.[164] City council member, Glenn Choolokian said, “We won’t let the temptation of millions of dollars in reward for out-of-town companies, corporations and individuals to be the driving force that puts the health and lives of our children and families at risk from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and its toxic water. I will not take part in bringing another Love Canal to the City of Niagara Falls.”“Our once great city and all the families of Niagara Falls have been through so much over the years. With Love Canal alive in our memories we aren’t going to allow another environmental tragedy to happen in our city, not today, not ever,” said Glenn Choolokian.[164] Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said he was against selling out future generations of children for corporate greed. Rita Yelda of Food and Water Watch, pointed out that pollutants don't only affect Niagara's citizens, but those in communities downstream as well.[164]

Ohio[edit]

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, approximately 80,000 oil and gas wells in Ohio have been hydraulically fractured since 1951. Ohio does not allow frac flowback or produced brine to be disposed of to surface streams; 98 percent of produced water is injected into Class II disposal wells, the remaining 2 percent is used for dust and ice control on roads, subject to local ordinances.[165]

On May 24, 2012, House of Representatives of Ohio passed Senate Bill 315[166] regulating oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing. The bill requires companies to test water wells within 1,500 feet (460 m) of proposed drill sites and to report the fluids and chemicals used while drilling and fracking, except for those considered proprietary. Companies will also be required to track wastewater injected into disposal wells.[167] According to John Funk of The Plain Dealer, the bill does not require complete disclosure of all chemicals used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and only requires any disclosure of chemicals after the well is already drilled. Proprietary formulas are protected. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is allowed up to 60 days after drilling to post the chemicals on its website. Opponents had wanted the bill to require chemicals to be disclosed before drilling so that citizens could have their wells tested for baseline levels of contaminants. The Ohio Senate also removed the requirement for disclosure of drilling lubricants in the space below the local water table but above its final depth. The bill does not give the public the right to appeal a drilling permit, and does not require public notices of permits. The bill allows doctors to reveal the formula only to the patient, family and other doctors solely for the purpose of treatment, not in legal or other proceedings.[168][169]

In May 2013, the Youngstown, Ohio city council turned down a proposed ban on fracking within city limits. The Niles, Ohio city council passed a fracking ban in August 2013, but unanimously rescinded the ban the following month, after testimony from labor union representatives.[170]

Pennsylvania[edit]

Pennsylvania's Act 13 [171] law on the one hand implements a State-wide regulation of hydraulic fracturing with the impact fee and on the other hand enshrines a really low standard of regulation preventing the possibilities for procedural justice and empowerment of local communities on the issue. Firstly, the law harmonizes the conditions for hydraulic fracturing regulations at the state level prohibiting local governments from legislating on the topic. It creates an impact fee for unconventional gas wells which benefits go to local counties and are to be used to tackle the effects of hydraulic fracturing locally. Nevertheless, the law has been widely criticized by environmentalists [172] for it prevents local governments from adopting tougher regulations of hydraulic fracturing activities. Indeed, zoning powers to decide where and when to allow hydraulic fracturing do not belong anymore to local authorities. The Pennsylvania Utility Commission has the power to invalidate any local ordinance conflicting with oil and gas operations. Hydraulic fracturing has to be authorized in all districts, comprising residential areas. Some chemicals are considered by the law as trade secret and information cannot be made public on their health effects. This bill, as well as most state-level regulations of hydraulic fracturing, has henceforth been seen as oriented towards the interests of the hydraulic fracturing industry against growing local concerns.

In 2011, President Obama and the governors of Maryland and Pennsylvania independently formed committees to provide advice about all aspects of fracking. However, a study conducted on the advisory committees of the Marcellus Shale gas area has shown that not a single member of these committees had public health expertise and that some concern existed about whether the commissions were not biased in their composition. Indeed, among 51 members of the committees, there is no evidence that a single one has any expertise in environmental public health, even after enlarging the category of experts to “include medical and health professionals who could be presumed to have some health background related to environmental health, however minimal”. This cannot be explained by the purpose of the committee since all three executive orders of the different committees mentioned environmental public health related issues. Another finding of the authors is that a quarter of the opposed comments mentioned the possibility of bias in favor of gas industries in the composition of committees. The authors conclude saying that political leaders may not want to raise public health concerns not to handicap further economic development due to fracking.[173]

Marcellus Shale Drilling Permits[edit]

The Marcellus Center at Pennsylvania State University reports that the number of permits issued for wells has increased from 122 in 2007 to 3249 in 2011. The Marcellus Center has posted an animated map of the proliferation of Marcellus Shale Drilling Permits in Pennsylvania. Another map displays both wells and waste processing centers. The bulk of waste from hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania is disposed of or used within the state.[174] Not all companies submit reports on production or waste.[174]

In November 2012 the PA DEP was again accused of withholding information about chemicals from hydraulic fracturing fluid that were found in residents' drinking water. The DEP had previously failed to notify residents about hydraulic fracturing related contamination events.[175][176] In 2013, under pressure from the Corbett administration, the PADEP attempted to suppress negative information about the impact of hydraulic fracturing in the state's shade plays from a mandated report on climate change.[3] Members of the Corbett administration wanted all references to a 2011 Cornell University study by Howarth[177][178] removed from the report.[3] Corbett received over a million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.[179][180]

The Marcellus Shale Law (House Bill 1950)[edit]

The Marcellus Shale Law (House Bill 1950)[181] was signed on February 14, 2012, by Governor Tom Corbett.[182] Despite warnings from the EPA about the safety of wastewater,[183] the law changes the zoning laws applicable to Marcellus Shale Well Drilling. The law was slated to take effect in April 2012, but legal challenges from a growing group of Pennsylvania municipalities and organizations led Commonwealth Senior Judge Keith Quigley to order that the implementation of parts of Act 13 be delayed for 120 days.[184] Some of its provisions are that all municipalities must allow Marcellus Shale well drilling (in all zoning districts, including residential and may not limit hours of operation), water and wastewater pits (in all zoning district, including residential), compressor stations (in industrial and agricultural zoning districts and may not limit hours of operation), gas processing plants (in industrial zoning districts and cannot limit hours of operation), and gas pipelines (in all zoning districts, including residential).[181][182] The law helps pave the way for a new pipeline across Pennsylvania to export terminals in Maryland.

The Marcellus Shale Law also contains a provision that allows doctors access to the list of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluid in emergency situations, but forbids them from discussing this information with their patients. This provision was added during the last revisions of the bill.[185] Specifically, the bill reads that, "(11) If a health professional determines that a medical emergency exists and the specific identity and amount of any chemicals claimed to be a trade secret or confidential proprietary information are necessary for emergency treatment, the vendor, service provider or operator shall immediately disclose the information to the health professional upon a verbal acknowledgment by the health professional that the information may not be used for purposes other than the health needs asserted and that the 'health professional shall maintain the information as confidential.' The vendor, service provider or operator may request, and the health professional shall provide upon request, a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement from the health professional as soon as circumstances permit, in conformance with regulations promulgated under this chapter."[181] The bill also says that vendors, service providers, and operators cannot be held responsible for inaccuracy in information that is provided to them, nor do they have to reveal the identities of chemicals that are not disclosed to them, that were not intentionally added to the hydraulic fracturing fluid, that are accidentally present in trace amounts, or are a product of a chemical reaction or process that occurs within the fluid.[181]

The EPA is increasing its oversight regarding investigations of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania,[186][187] which is currently under the administration of pro-drilling Governor Tom Corbett.[188] The New York Times reported that regulations are lax in Pennsylvania.[189] The oil and gas industry is generally left to police itself in the case of accidents. Unannounced inspections are not made by regulators: the companies report their own spills, and create their own remediation plans.[189] A recent review of the state-approved plans found them to appear to be in violation of the law.[189] There are signs of regulatory capture. As noted previously, Corbett received over a million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.[179][180] Ronald Krancer, father of 2012 Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, donated $25,000 to the State Republican Committee the day before his son was confirmed as the new Department of Environmental Protection Secretary. In addition, Michael Krancer's father contributed $150,000 to Governor Corbett's campaign, tens of thousands to GOP Bob Asher's political action committee and at least $125,000 to the state Republican Party since 2008.[190]

Texas[edit]

Denton County banned hydraulic fracturing on November 4, 2014 becoming the first Texas city to do so. Funding the cause was funded by Chevron Corporation, XTO Energy and Chesapeake Energy's own 'Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy' who raised nearly $700,000 since July 2014 and Frack Free Denton who raised $75,000 This action will help to preserve the health of waters in the North Eastern Fort Worth Basin of the Barnett Shale from many chemical additives.[191] Similar protest, voting and Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area supporters around the DFW area may soon change support by Actor Tommy Lee Jones as spokesperson from 2008 for a public relations campaign to promote hydraulic fracturing in Texas.

Vermont[edit]

Vermont's Act 152 has banned hydraulic fracturing in the exploitation and exploration of unconventional oil and gas as long as it is not demonstrated that it has no impact on the environment or public health.[192]

Although there has been no oil or gas production or hydraulic fracturing in the state, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in February 2012, and on May 17, 2012 Governor Peter Shumlin (Democrat) signed the law making Vermont the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing.[193][194] On Friday, May 4, 2012, the Vermont legislature voted 103-36 to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state. The bill also requires the state's regulations be revised to prohibit injection well operators from accepting oil and natural gas drilling waste water from out of state.[195]

Wyoming[edit]

On June 8, 2010 the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to require full disclosure of the hydraulic fracturing fluids used in natural gas exploration.[196][197]

Media and public relations[edit]

The opposition against fracking activities in local townships has led companies to adopt a variety of public relations measures to assuage fears about fracking, including the admitted use of "mil­i­tary tac­tics to counter drilling oppo­nents". At a conference where public relations measures were discussed, a senior executive at Anadarko Petroleum was recorded on tape saying, "Download the US Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency", while referring to fracking opponents. Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for the most important fracking company in Pennsylvania, Range Resources, also told other conference attendees that Range employed psychological warfare operations veterans. According to Pitzarella, the experience learnt in the Middle East has been valuable to Range Resources in Pennsylvania, when dealing with emotionally-charged township meetings and advising townships on zoning and local ordinances dealing with fracking.[198][199] Furthermore, in a February 2012 campaign speech, Rick Santorum, a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination, referred to those objecting to hydraulic fracturing as environmental terrorists.[200]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

a. ^ Also spelled "fraccing"[201] or "fracing".[202]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Wilber, Tom (2012). Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801450167. 

External links[edit]

Government links[edit]

Anti-fracking groups[edit]

Industry groups[edit]

Other NGOs[edit]

News links[edit]