Shouldn’t the federal government be more involved in regulating hydraulic fracturing?
A comprehensive set of federal, state and local laws address hydraulic fracturing operations. These include well design, location, spacing, operation, water and waste management and disposal, air emissions, wildlife protection, surface impacts, and health and safety.
Federal laws that govern environmental aspects of natural gas drilling include:
- The Clean Water Act (CWA) – regulates discharges of pollutants to surface water and storm water runoff.
- The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – specifically regulates the injection of fluid wastes (produced water) under the ground.
- The Clean Air Act (CAA) – sets rules for air emissions from engines, gas processing equipment, tanks and other sources associated with production and drilling activities.
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – requires environmental impact assessments for development of federal lands.
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) – sets safety standards with which employers must comply to protect their employees. Also requires Material Safety Data Sheets be maintained and readily available for employee use covering chemicals used on location.
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) – requires storage of regulated chemicals above certain quantities be reported to local and state emergency responders on an annual basis.
Additional federal regulation is not needed because states are already working well through regulatory regimes that fit the states' individual geographies, geologies and other circumstances. In addition to government oversight, new industry standards are continuously evaluated to advance operations and practices. The industry has created a number of guidance hydraulic fracturing documents and initiatives, including recommended practices for environmental protection for onshore oil and natural gas production and leases, well construction and integrity, water use management, and surface environmental considerations.
Industry best practices and transparent operations have played a key role in effective state regulation, which began more than 50 years ago. So far, state regulators have cited 184 API standards more than 3,300 times. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and state regulators have repeated that state-based regulation has proven successful for safe industry operations, and the good news is that studies by the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council have found no direct link between hydraulic fracturing operations and groundwater impact.
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