GSA Critical Issue: Hydraulic Fracturing
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Potential Environmental Issues
|The hydraulic fracturing critical issue will be periodically updated.|
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Figure 16. Frac Focus home website, FracFocus.org.
Oil and gas exploration and production activity is regulated at the federal, state, and local level. Although the EPA Scientific Advisory Board is studying issues related to hydraulic fracturing, and has investigated complaints of possible groundwater contamination related to hydraulic fracturing, most regulation resides with state agencies, many of which have experience in oil and gas regulation. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), a multi-state commission ratified by Congress, helps states establish and coordinate regulation of the oil and gas industry. The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) also assist in this effort. In addition, acquisition of water for hydraulic fracturing is subject to state regulations and laws.
Disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing is currently exempt from federal regulations associated with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and composition restrictions and reporting requirements of injected fluid vary between states . In response to public requests for disclosure of the composition of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, the IOGCC and the GWPC established a publicly accessible hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website called FracFocus 2.0 (FracFocus.org) (Fig 16). At least 18 states require companies to disclose the identity of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, although all of these states protect proprietary trade secrets from disclosure.
Hydraulic fracturing of tight rocks has become a growing component of oil and gas energy production in the U.S., particularly in terms of natural gas production from shale. While there are potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing itself, most of the environmental concerns relate to long established processes used in nearly all oil and gas drilling—such as well construction or fluid disposal—and are not unique to the process of hydraulic fracturing itself. There are also serious concerns related to the rapid industrialization of unconventional oil and gas development, of which hydraulic fracturing is a critical component. There remains a significant need for accurate information dissemination, improved dialogue between consumers and producers, and ongoing research on hydraulic fracturing and its potential environmental impact. Meanwhile, peer-reviewed professional publications remain the most reliable source of scientific and technical information about hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and gas development. Geologists involved in aspects of the hydraulic fracturing technology, whether in exploration and development, regulation, natural resource management or environmental protection, are encouraged to share their knowledge with the general public and policy makers.