Science has struggled to keep pace with the rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing–commonly called fracking–over the last decade. Concerns over environmental impacts and implications for human health have caused several state legislatures and local municipalities to enact stricter regulations on drilling processes and establish moratoriums until more science is available. Currently, oil and gas fracking wells are active in more than 20 states.
Fracking injects millions of gallons of fluid — a mixture of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals–into a deep well to fracture the rock and release gas or oil. In some cases, the fluid returns to the surface with new, dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen.
1) Nearly 700 unique chemicals are used in fracking. The individual impact of these chemicals on human health remains largely unknown, thereby limiting how much health care providers and emergency responders can assist residents living close to drilling sites. (EPA)
2) Faulty cement well casings can cause toxic chemicals to leach into the local groundwater. A recent study found that nine percent of wells drilled since 2009 already have structural integrity issues. (PNAS)
3) Injecting oil and gas wastewater back underground for disposal has been linked to an increase in earthquake frequency across the country, including 585 quakes greater than magnitude 3 in Oklahoma in 2014, compared with 109 quakes in 2013. (USGS)
4) Natural gas and petroleum systems account for 33% of U.S. methane emissions due to leaks. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that impacts climate change at least twenty times more than carbon dioxide. (EPA)
Legislation concerning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is being introduced across the country. Currently at least nine states have introduced legislation to enact stricter regulations on fracking safety, while at least eight states have bills related to a moratorium on fracking.
HB 2463 — Hydraulic Fracturing Prohibition
AB 1490 — This bill would prohibit a well operator from conducting a well stimulation treatment following the occurrence of an earthquake of magnitude 2.0 or higher on a well that is within a radius of an unspecified distance from the epicenter of the earthquake until the division completes a certain evaluation and is satisfied that the well stimulation treatment does not create a heightened risk of seismic activity. The bill would also prohibit wastewater disposal wells and all well stimulation treatments within 10 miles of a recently active fault.
AB 14 — This bill, with a specified exemption, would require a manufacturer who produces packaged food that contains a plant irrigated with wastewater from oil and gas field activities that contains well stimulation treatment additives and fluids or a retail facility that sells a raw agricultural commodity that was irrigated with wastewater from oil and gas field activities that contains well stimulation treatment additives and fluids to label those products in a specified manner.
SB 4 — This bill, California’s first fracking regulations, provides definition, cause for a scientific study, and specific regulations for the drilling process.
HB 16-1355 — Concerning the ability of local governments to exercise land use authority over oil and gas facilitites used in oil and gas operations in a manner analogous to the siting of other industrial facilities.
SB 166 — Prohibiting a person from engaging in hydraulic fracturing in this state.
SB 1468 — Regulation of oil and gas resources; amended to place a moratorium on fracking until after a study is completed.
SB 1197 — Establishes a geothermal resources development permit system. Prohibits hydraulic fracturing. Makes appropriation to county of Hawaii.
HB 659 — Prohibits persons from collecting, storing, or disposing of, or treating wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.
HB 677 — Prohibits constructing, installing, operating, or maintaining a “Class II” injection well in connection with hydraulic fracturing in the Commonwealth.
HB 740 — Prohibits hydraulic fracturing in the commonwealth to protect the water quality.
HB 449 — Requiring the Department of the Environment, on or before October 1, 2016, to adopt regulations to provide for the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas in the State; prohibiting specified regulations adopted by the Department from becoming effective until October 1, 2017; prohibiting the Department from issuing a permit to authorize the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas in the State until October 1, 2017
HB 5366 — Hydraulic fracturing; suspend issuance of new or modified permits until advisory committee recommendations on hydraulic fracturing are implemented.
HB 5367 — Hydraulic fracturing operations; require certain information and reports to be submitted.
HB 5368 — Gas and oil; use of flowback water from hydraulic fracturing process on dirt roads as a dust suppression tool; prohibit.
HB 5370 — Gas and oil; presumption of liability for contamination of groundwater caused by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing process; establish.
HB 5371 — Hydraulic fracturing; require notice and an opportunity for a public hearing prior to authorizing.
HB 5372 — Gas and oil; county and township zoning regulation of certain hydraulic fracturing; eliminate preemption of.
HB 5373 — Water withdrawals associated with oil and gas production; require use of the assessment tool and update the assessment tool to consider impacts from hydraulic fracturing.
HB 243 — Requires public disclosure and landowner notice of fracturing fluid information in oil and gas operations.
HB 609 — Prohibits hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil production and the discharge of waste in this state from hydraulic fracturing.
A 1136 — Establishes moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for purpose of natural gas exploration or production until certain conditions are met.
A 2108 — Prohibits treatment, discharge, disposal, application to roadway, or storage of wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts from natural gas exploration or production using hydraulic fracturing.
A 2151 — Prohibits certain drilling techniques of hydraulic fracturing.
S 1376 — Establishes moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for purpose of natural gas exploration or production until certain federal laws are changed.
S 2525 – Prohibits treatment, discharge, disposal, application to roadway, or storage of wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts from natural gas exploration or production using hydraulic fracturing.
S 2534 — Requires laboratory analysis of waste or material generated by hydraulic fracturing; requires DEP permit, and disclosure of plans, methods, or processes to treat, store, process, or dispose of such waste or material.
AB 130 — Relates to prohibiting the acceptance of wastewater from oil or natural gas extraction activities at wastewater treatment facilities and landfills.
AB 211 — Prohibits the use of waste from oil or natural gas extraction activities or waste from storage of oil or natural gas on any highway.
AB 750 — Prohibits publicly owned treatment works from accepting wastewater associated with the exploration, delineation, development, or production of natural gas from high-volume hydraulic fracturing; provides exceptions.
AB 789 — Prohibits inclusion of non-disclosure agreements in settlements of hydraulic fracturing actions when there is evidence of threat to public health or safety.
AB 1043 — Prohibits the use of wastewater from high-volume hydraulic fracturing for road and land spreading, for dust control or de-icing.
AB 2478 — Prohibits the sale, purchase or use of any liquid waste product from hydraulic fracturing operations and requires the department of environmental conservation to establish rules and regulations concerning the proper disposal of waste products generated during the process of hydraulic fracturing.
AB 2601 — Requires the provision of an assessment by a geologist prior to issuance of a permit for a hydraulic fracturing well.
AB 2673 — Relates to wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and directs the commissioner of the DEC to promulgate rules and regulations requiring screening of such wastewater to not cause harm to sewage treatment works.
AB 2674 — Prohibits high-volume hydraulic fracturing in reforestation areas.
AB 4191 — Provides for the regulation of the conducting of hydraulic fracturing; requires producers to disclose the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids to the department of environmental conservation; provides that producers using hydraulic fracturing are strictly liable for any and all damages arising from such practice; requires all such producers to concede liability.
AB 4726 — Prohibits the use of hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of oil and gas; prohibits acceptance, disposal and/or processing of any fluid used in a hydraulic fracturing process.
AB 4914 — Prohibits the use of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing for road spreading for dust control or de-icing.
AB 4943 — Prohibits the transportation of any waste product or byproduct from hydraulic fracturing operations.
AB 5033 — Establishes the natural gas exploration and extraction liability act of 2015.
AB 6476 — Prohibits fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas or oil on land operated by the office of parks, recreation and historic preservation and within 1 mile thereof.
AB 6497 — Establishes a moratorium on conducting hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of natural gas or oil until 120 days after federal Environmental Protection Agency issues a report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health.
AB 6579 — Imposes a moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas until every aquifer in the state is mapped and classified by the United States Geological Survey and/or the New York State Geological Survey, and the department of environmental conservation has adopted regulations to protect such aquifers.
AB 6699 — Prohibits non-disclosure clauses in leases of real property to be used for hydraulic fracturing.
AB 6733 — Enacts the “look before you leap act of 2015” to establish a 5 year moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing and the conducting of an investigation thereon.
AB 6836 — Relates to standards of performance for wastewater facilities.
SB 45 — Relates to standards of performance for wastewater facilities.
SB 47 — Prohibits the transportation of any waste product or byproduct from hydraulic fracturing operations.
SB 48 — Prohibits the use of waste from oil or natural gas extraction activities or waste from storage of oil or natural gas on any highway.
SB 340 — Relates to prohibiting the acceptance of wastewater from oil or natural gas extraction activities at wastewater treatment facilities and landfills.
SB 681 — Requires a seismological impact study related to hydrofracking.
SB 883 — Prohibits the use of hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of oil and gas; prohibits acceptance, disposal and/or processing of any fluid used in a hydraulic fracturing process.
SB 901 — Establishes a moratorium on the acceptance, disposal and/or processing of any fluid which was used in and drill cuttings from a hydraulic fracturing process performed outside of the state until 120 days after federal Environmental Protection Agency issues a report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health, and submission of proof to the governor and legislature that the department of environmental conservation is capable of effectively regulating hydraulic fracturing.
SB 902 — Requires a health impact assessment for horizontal gas drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing; imposes a moratorium on such activities pending adoption and implementation of the final health impact assessment.
SB 927 — Suspends the issuance of permits for drilling wells for natural gas extraction in certain areas.
SB 1129 — Prohibits non-disclosure clauses in leases of real property to be used for hydraulic fracturing.
SB 1220 — Relates to natural gas development using hydraulic fracturing; enacts provisions to ensure natural gas development practices will be sustainable and safe.
SB 3093 — Establishes a moratorium on the issuance of permits for the drilling of wells and prohibits drilling within ten miles of the New York city water supply infrastructure.
SB 3842 — Relates to the regulation of the drilling of natural gas resources.
SB 3861 — Relates to the regulation of the use of hydraulic fracturing fluids.
SB 3862 — Establishes the natural gas exploration and extraction liability act of 2015.
SB 3863 — Prohibits the sale, purchase or use of any liquid waste product from hydraulic fracturing operations and requires the department of environmental conservation to establish rules and regulations concerning the proper disposal of waste products generated during the process of hydraulic fracturing.
SB 4314 — Prohibits the use of wastewater from high-volume hydraulic fracturing for road and land spreading, for dust control or de-icing.
SB 4347 — Prohibits publicly owned treatment works from accepting wastewater associated with the exploration, delineation, development, or production of natural gas from high-volume hydraulic fracturing; provides exceptions.
SB 4451 — Creates the high-volume hydraulic fracturing waste tracking program; requires the commissioner of environmental conservation to track the generation, transportation and receipt of liquid and solid waste associated with the production of oil and gas.
Governor Action — Governor Cuomo issued an order banning fracking in New York State.
HB 172 — Requiring the Environmental Management Commission to adopt rules establishing technical requirements and best management practices to minimize leaks and other unpermitted releases of air pollutants associated with fracking.
HB 772 — An act to protect property rights of North Carolina citizens from forced pooling arrangements associated with hydraulic fracturing activities associated with fossil fuel exploration and extraction activities.
H 773 — An act to strengthen the public’s right to know regarding the composition and contents of chemicals injected into the earth by oil and gas developers using hydraulic fracturing treatments.
H 787 — An act to establish additional permit requirements governing applicants for a permit to conduct oil and gas operations, including use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing treatments for that purpose.
HB 3415 — Imposes 10-year moratorium on use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas exploration and production.
SB 347 — An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for protection of water supplies, for transportation records regarding wastewater fluids, for inspection and production of materials, witnesses, depositions and rights of entry and for inspection reports.
SB 551 — Providing for hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure requirements, especially for health professionals.
HB 3001 — Specifying the information that an operator of a well on which a hydraulic fracturing treatment is performed is required to disclose.
HB 4021 — Creates a tax severance credit for oil and gas operators for use of alternative fluids in place of freshwater solely in the process of hydraulic fracturing.
SB 1990 — Specifying the information that an operator of a well on which a hydraulic fracturing treatment is performed is required to disclose.
H. 464 — An act relating to hydraulic fracturing wells for natural gas and oil production, banning the practice in the state.
HB 3013 — Relating generally to horizontal well control standards.The bill requires notices be sent to residential occupants in certain instances, establishes standards related to air, noise, light and dust, permits landowners be compensated for decrease in land value, and more.
Science and Reports
News research on fracking is constantly emerging, and the majority of studies have occurred since 2012. Peer-reviewed science continues to identify potential risks and dangers to public health and the environment.
A compilation of studies and reports related to fracking is available below, along with a short summary of each resource. The science is all peer-reviewed and the reports are issued by government agencies or other organizations working on fracking issues. These resources will be regularly updated.
- Wastewater Disposal from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development Degrades Stream Quality at a West Virginia Injection Facility — Environmental Science & Technology, 2016
This USGS research paper analyzed the impact of wastewater injection on a nearby streams. The study determined that the stream was being directly impacted by chemicals from the wastewater injection, and that microbial communities essential for ecosystem foodwebs are changing as a result. More studies are underway to further investigate the extent of the impact.
- Spills of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals on Agricultural Topsoil: Biodegradation, Sorption, and Co-contaminant Interactions — Environmental Science & Technology, 2016
Researchers investigated how long fracking chemicals remain in the soil after usage, and the study underscored the need for additional research into how fracking spills interact with agricultural land. The study simulated spills and analyzed the chemical reactions that occur to determine how quickly certain chemicals break down. If chemicals are slow to break down, they have a higher chance of reaching sensitive surface or groundwater. A news release on the study is available here.
- Elucidating Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts on Groundwater Quality Using A Regional Geospatial Statistical Modeling Approach — ScienceDirect, 2016
Researchers used a geospatial model to study migration pathways from gas wells to groundwater. They found that in the Barnett Shale Formation, the chemical beryllium could be used as an indicator for chemicals from gas operations leaking into the surrounding groundwater.
- A Systematic Evaluation of Chemicals in Hydraulic-Fracturing Fluids and Wastewater for Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity — Journal of Exposure Science and Epidemiology, 2016
This study from the Yale School of Public Health investigated more than 1,000 chemicals used in fracking to determine public health impacts. Limited access to hindered their ability to study every chemical, but for the 240 chemicals that the team was able to research, they found 157 were associated with some kind of reproductive or development problem, such as adverse birth outcomes, derailed brain development or infertility.
- Methane Emissions From Natural Gas Infrastructure and Use in the Urban Region of Boston, Massachusetts — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015
Researchers analyzed methane, a potent greenhouse gas, emissions in the urban region of Boston and compared that against reported values. Results indicate that natural gas accounted for 60-100% of methane emissions, depending on season, and that the loss rate from natural gas systems was 2.7% (plus or minus 0.6%), compared to 1.1% implied in the emission inventory.
- Fracking Industry Wells Associated with Premature Birth — Epidemiology, 2015
New research from Johns Hopkins has linked proximity to drilling sites with pregnancy risks for women. The researchers found that living near the most active drilling sites correlated with a 40 percent increase in the likelihood of giving birth before 37 weeks of gestation (“pre-term”) and a 30 percent increase in the chance that the pregnancy would be labeled “high risk,” the latter of which can include elevated blood pressure or excess weight gain.
- The Housing Market Impact of Shale Gas Development — American Economic Review, 2015
This study is among the first to quantify the impact of fracking on the housing market in the surrounding area. The research revealed that homes within a mile of fracking operations saw an average value decrease of $30,000 when connected to well water.
- Oklahoma’s Recent Earthquakes and Saltwater Disposal — Science Advances, 2015
A new study from Stanford University found that the recent spike in earthquakes is primarily due to the injection of wastewater produced during oil production. The research will help influence the discussion about the rising earthquakes in Oklahoma, which have increased dramatically in the past two years. A news release on the study is available here.
- Methane Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Gathering and Processing — Environmental Science & Technology, 2015
This study found that methane is leaking from natural gas processing plants at much higher rates than reported. The gathering and processing sector are often overlooked aspects of the natural gas process, but this analysis found that they contribute up to 30 percent of emissions for all natural gas production. Moreover, only about 10 percent of these facilities report emissions.
- Water Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Varies Widely Across United States — Water Resources Research, 2015
A new analysis of water usage from fracking by USGS found wide variation across the US, from as little as 2,600 gallons to as much as 9.7 million gallons per well. The study also found that horizontal wells use more water than vertical or directional wells, with horizontal wells making up 52 out of the 57 watersheds with the highest average water use for fracking. Overall, oil and gas fracking uses more than 20 times more water than it did 15 years ago, and USGS has created a comprehensive map showing water use across the country.
- Regional Air Quality Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Shale Natural Gas Activity — Science Direct, 2015
This study measured ethane concentrations near Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. and found that levels are seven percent higher than in 2010, when fracking expanded in the mid-Atlantic region. Ethane is a key component of natural gas, and this study suggests that the air pollution impacts of fracking are being carried across the region from fracking sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
- A Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in the Barnett Shale Region — Environmental Science & Technology, 2015
A new analysis of 550 wells across the Barnett Shale natural gas formation in Texas found elevated levels of potentially harmful chemicals in areas near fracking sites. The study–one of the largest independent analyses so far–found volatile organic compounds in two-thirds of the wells sampled, such as benzene, which is a known carcinogen. A news story on the research is available here.
- Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources — Science of the Total Environment, 2015
Researchers investigated cancer risk for residents living near fracking sites. Benzene was identified as the major contributor to cancer, and the paper encourages additional research into the health effects of air pollution caused by drilling.
- Impact of Natural Gas Extraction on PAH Levels in Ambient Air — Environmental Science & Technology, 2015
People living or working near active natural gas wells may be exposed to certain pollutants at higher levels than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for lifetime exposure. The study identified high levels of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that are linked to increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments. Pollution levels were highest near active sites, but even the lowest levels at sites more than a mile away were up to 10 times higher than a rural area with no natural gas wells.
- Perinatal Outcomes and Unconventional Natural Gas Operations in Southwest Pennsylvania — PLOS One, 2015
Researchers found that living close to a higher number of fracking sites may be connected with lower birth weight in newborn babies. The study investigated more than 15,000 births in Southwest Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2010, while the number of wells during that time exploded from 44 at the start to 2,800 by 2010. The authors caution they did not prove living close to a fracking site will lead to lower birth weight, but stress that these results warrant further investigation in future studies.
- Spatial distribution of unconventional gas wells and human populations in the Marcellus Shale in the United States: Vulnerability analysis — Science Direct, 2015
Researchers analyzed the vulnerability of low-income populations in Pennsylvania to the negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The study concluded that fracking is an environmental justice issue in that the poor are unequally exposed to pollution from unconventional gas wells. While the industry claims the activities provide economic stimulus to the region, the low-income communities then suffer the potential health effects of air and water pollution associated with fracking.
- Ecosystem Services Lost to Oil and Gas in North America — Science, 2015
This study attempted to quantify the impact of oil and gas drilling on millions of acres of agricultural areas and rangeland between 2000 and 2012 in 11 states and three Canadian provinces. Researchers found that about 7 million acres–the equivalent of three Yellowstone National parks–were converted to oil and gas drilling areas during that time. About half of the converted acreage was rangeland, while 40 percent was cropland, 10 percent was forestland and a small amount included wetlands.
- Predictors of Indoor Radon Concentrations in Pennsylvania, 1989–2013 — Environmental Health Perspectives, 2015
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that levels of radon–an odorless radioactive gas linked to lung cancer–have been on the rise in Pennsylvania since 2004, roughly when the fracking industry began drilling in the state. The study also found that buildings located in counties with active natural gas extractions have seen significantly higher readings of radon compared with buildings in low-activity areas.
- Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development — Environmental Science and Technology, 2014
This literature review highlights the various public health risks associated with natural gas development. The researchers sorted through all of the current research to determine areas of concern and which impacts from drilling need additional research.
- Assessment and risk analysis of casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, 2000–2012 — PNAS, 2014
Researcher analyzed 41,000 conventional and unconventional oil and gas to assess the dangers of faulty cement casings on active wells. They found that nine percent of unconventional wells drilled in northeast Pennsylvania since 2009 already have structural integrity issues, raising concerns about the effectiveness of both old and new wells at keeping methane out of the atmosphere and water supply.
- Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado — Environmental Health Perspectives, 2014
This study looked at the correlation between natural gas development and birth defects. The results indicate an association between density and proximity of natural gas wells and certain birth defects, such as congenital heart defects.
- Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality — Science, 2013 (Abstract and summary free, subscription required for full text)
This study reviewed current literature on environmental issues associated with unconventional gas extraction. The paper specifically analyzes the risk of fracking processes contaminating groundwater supplies, and recommends improving our understanding of how contaminants of concern are transported through the ecosystem to effectively manage water quality risks in the future.
- An Evaluation of Water Quality in Private Drinking Water Wells Near Natural Gas Extraction Sites in the Barnett Shale Formation — Environmental Science & Technology, 2013
This study evaluated 100 private drinking water wells and revealed instances where arsenic, selenium, strontium and total dissolved solids exceeded the EPA’s Drinking Water Maximum Contaminant Levels. The region has more than 16,000 active wells, and the researchers found that wells closer to fracking activity were more likely to have high levels of dangerous chemicals.
- Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources — Science of the Total Environment, 2012
Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health study found that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites. The study recommends considering air pollution in the national discussion on fracking, and focusing risk prevention efforts on reducing air emission exposures for persons living and working near wells.
- Fracking by the Numbers — Environment America, Frontier Group, 2016
This report quantifies the environmental impacts of fracking through wastewater, chemical usage, water usage, and more. For example, fracking produced at least 14 billion gallons of wastewater in 2014, and released 5.3 billion pounds of methane into the atmosphere.
- Understanding the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Public Park Usage — University of Florida, 2015
This report surveyed citizens of five states–PA, OH, TN, WY and WV–to determine whether fracking on or near public land would influence participation in recreation. They found that 38 percent of respondents were unwilling to partake in recreational activities near fracking sites, while only 33 percent were willing. Fifty-two percent were concerned fracking would limit access to a park, and 58 percent support legislation protecting parks.
- Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking — Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2015
This report compiles various information demonstrating the health risks from fracking, ranging from air and water pollution to leakage of methane and toxic gases. The authors conclude that there are significant uncertainties about the health outcomes associated with hydraulic fracturing and that more science is needed to determine whether these risks can be adequately managed.
- Understanding the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Public Park Usage — University of Florida, 2015
This report investigated the impact of fracking operations on park usage and participation. Thirty-eight percent of participants indicated that they would be unwilling to participate in recreational activities near fracking operations, while 48% of users agree that fracking is bad for the environment.
- Rating the States on Their Risk of Natural Gas Overreliance — Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015
This report outlines which states are at risk of future problems due to an overreliance on natural gas. Two-thirds of U.S. states may be putting their electricity consumers at financial risk because of this overreliance, and consumers will be on the hook from volatility in the market place during price spikes.
- Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil & Gas Development — States First Initiative, 2015
This report offers a frank look at addressing earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of fracking wastewater. The StatesFirst initiative produced the report, which includes guidance from seismologists, academics and industry experts. While the report stops short of model regulations due to state differences, it does provide current science and case studies on the issue.
- Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources. — EPA, 2015
A highly anticipated EPA report on fracking found that fracking can contaminate drinking water, but has not caused “widespread” impacts. Following claims that the report labeled fracking as safe, the EPA has clarified that the message of the report is that they identified vulnerabilities in the water system that need to be addressed to keep risks as low as possible.
- Onshore petroleum and natural gas operations on federal and tribal lands in the US — Environmental Defense Fund, 2015
This report found that the leakage of methane at natural gas sites could offset the environmental benefits of fracking. The report, carried out by the environmental consulting group ICF, estimated the amount of leaks from natural gas and oil production on federal and tribal lands and found that 65 billion cubic feet of natural gas was lost to the atmosphere in 2013–equal to roughly $360 million of lost gas. A news story on the report is available here.
- Four states’ failure to manage gas and oil field waste from the Marcellus and Utica Shale — Earthworks, 2015
This report comprehensively evaluates how four of the states overlying the Marcellus and Utica shale plays—Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York—manage waste and the struggles associated with the growing volumes and associated problems. In addition, it considers the EPA’s exemption for oil and gas waste from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the responsibility of states to adopt policies that more effectively manage oil and gas waste.
- Final Rule to support safe, responsible hydraulic fracturing activities on public and tribal lands — Department of Interior, 2015
The Bureau of Land Management released standards to address well integrity, water protection and the disclosure of chemicals. Previous rules were more than 30 years old, and proved insufficient to address challenges posed by the 100,000 oil and gas wells currently on federally managed land–90 percent of which use hydraulic fracturing. The rule was the result of more than 1.5 million public comments, and introduces new protocol for oil and case companies, including increased disclosure requirements through the FracFocus website.
- Analysis of hydraulic fracturing fluid data from the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry 1.0 — EPA, 2015
This report used the industry-managed reporting site, FracFocus, to analyze more than 39,000 disclosures provided to the U.S. Nearly 700 unique chemicals were identified, although it is highly likely that more exist that have not yet been reported.The EPA will now consider these chemicals when assessing the potential impacts to drinking water resources from fracking.
- Trends in hydraulic fracturing distributions and treatment fluids, additives, proppants, and water volumes applied to wells drilled in the United States from 1947 through 2010 — USGS, 2015
An analyses of fluid additives and usage in hydraulic fracturing. The report tracks changes in drilling processes since 1947 and shows that water-intensive drilling processes have increased from being used in just six percent of new wells in 2000 to 42 percent of new wells drilled in 2010. Note: the study data only goes through 2010, just as the drilling boom started taking place.
- Toward an understanding of the environmental and public health impacts of shale gas development: an analysis of the peer reviewed scientific literature, 2009-2014 — PSE Healthy Energy, 2015
This analysis provides an overview of current scientific knowledge regarding the potential impacts of fracking. Nearly 75 percent of studies related to shale gas development have been published since 2013, highlighting the discrepancy between fracking development and the scientific community’s ability to understand the environmental and public health implications. An infographic summarizing the findings from the peer-reviewed literature can be found here.
- Warning Signs: Toxic air pollution identified at oil and gas development sites — Coming Clean, 2014
This report provides results from community air monitoring in six states near sites associated with oil and gas production processes, particularly fracking. The results show a wide range of hazardous chemicals are present in the air at levels above federal health and safety standards. In some cases, monitors revealed concentrations of hazardous chemicals high enough to pose an immediate health threat to the public. Recommendations include more comprehensive air quality monitoring and public disclosure of all chemicals used for drilling and production activities.
- Fracking by the numbers — Environment America, 2013
This report seeks to quantify key impacts of fracking such as production of toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions. This was the first study to measure fracking’s nationwide footprint, and revealed surprising statistics, including the fact that fracking produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012, enough to cover all of Washington, D.C., in a 22-foot deep lagoon.
- The truth about fracking & your family’s health — Center for Environmental Health, 2013
This report focuses on three ways in which fracking affects the health of mothers, children and their communities: toxic chemicals from air pollution, water contamination, and social stressors associated with heavy industrial activities. CEH recommends disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking to better understand potential health impacts, along with better scientific oversight of the process and moratoriums until more research is completed.
- The case for a ban on fracking — Food and Water Watch, 2011
This report draws upon scientific research and case studies from states and local municipalities to issue recommendations for more tightly regulated fracking or complete bans. Supporting research has found that toxic chemicals present in fracking fluid can contribute to health problems such as concern. Moreover, more than 3,000 gas fracking wells and permitted sites in Pennsylvania are located within two miles of 320 day care centers, 67 schools and nine hospitals.
Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key facts and links to legislation here.
The World Resources Institute issued a new report highlighting state options for reducing methane emissions from natural gas drilling. The report provides excellent statistics and case studies of previous actions.
The Ohio Environmental Council created a 2 minute video explaining the fracking process and potential risks from unconventional drilling.
This website created by Environment America highlights fracking campaigns by state, as well as hosting reports and other information related to the dangers of fracking.
The Natural Resources Defense Council compiled regulatory information by state related to fracking. Their website also provides questions and answers about landowners rights, environmental impacts and health effects associated with the process.
The Association of Nurses for Healthy Environments created tailored fact sheets aimed at legislators, health providers and the general public related to the health impacts of fracking. Their site includes access to ANHE reports and a collection of public case studies as well.
This data analysis by the FracTracker Alliance investigates the impact of drilling on organic farms. The site provides maps, graphics and statistics on issues such as proximity to drilling sites, crop production and potential industry expansion trends.
The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote a report titled “The Natural Gas Gamble: A Risky Bet on America’s Clean Energy Future” that highlights potential risks to the our economy, health and climate from this new energy source. The report concludes with several recommendations for safer implementation.
Recent News Stories
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released findings that link fracking activity to earthquakes in the state. Fracking has been tied to earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma and other states, but this is the first known linkage in Pennsylvania. The full story is available here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fracking-caused-pa-earthquakes-state-regulators-say/
The EPA issued a final report on December 13th analyzing the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and concluded that these activities can impact drinking water resources. The agency previously released a draft version of the report last year that concluded fracking had no “widespread systemic impacts to drinking water resources.” That finding […]
Mayors urge state leaders to put fracking in local control — Colorlines, 2016 State legislatures have prevented cities from banning fracking in the past. More than 30 mayors from 14 states have come together to insist that they the should have the power to decide whether fracking happens in their cities. Continued here: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/mayors-urge-state-leaders-put-fracking-local-control
CSU team calls for more study of fracking spills — The Coloradoan, 2016 A team of CSU researchers wanted to find out how long chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing remain in soil after being spilled and whether certain chemical combinations have different effects. Continued here: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2016/06/01/csu-teams-calls-more-studies-fracking-spills/85258790/
Should Florida ‘frack’ its limestone for oil and gas? Two geophysicists weigh in — UF News, 2016 UF geophysicists Ray Russo and Elizabeth Screaton provide context for the debate over whether fracking should come to Florida, a state with a unique geology and hydrology Continued here: http://news.ufl.edu/articles/2016/05/should-florida-frack-its-limestone-for-oil-and-gas-two-geophysicists-weigh-in.php
Fracking wells released over 5 billion pounds of methane in one year — Grist, 2016 Being in close proximity to fracking operations could screw up your sexual health, cause developmental defects and cancer, induce seismic activity around you, and the list goes on. Continued here: http://grist.org/article/fracking-wells-released-over-5-billion-pounds-of-methane-in-one-year/
Maryland county becomes first in state to say ‘no’ to fracking — The Washington Post, 2016 Lawmakers in Prince George’s County voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracking, becoming the first local jurisdiction in Maryland to prohibit the extraction of natural gas within its borders since the state’s moratorium on the practice went into […]
Fracking wells can cut their toxic chemical use — Scientific American, 2016 When oil and gas companies extract fuel from the earth via fracking, they routinely add biocides such as glutaraldehyde to the high-pressure water they use to fracture rock formations deep underground. These compounds are a preemptive strike against microbes that produce hydrogen sulfide, which can […]
Fracking can contaminate drinking water — Scientific American, 2016 It took nearly a decade, but former EPA scientist Dominic DiGiulio has proved that fracking has polluted groundwater in Wyoming Continued here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-can-contaminate-drinking-water/
Feds: 7 million people are at risk of man-made earthquakes — The Hill, 2016 Seven million Americans live or work in areas threatened by earthquakes induced by human activity, federal researchers said Monday. Continued here: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/274471-feds-7-million-people-at-risk-of-man-made-earthquakes