State Enforcement of Shale Gas Development Regulations, Including Hydraulic Fracturing

33 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2012 Last revised: 25 Mar 2015

Date Written: August 25, 2011


The United States is in the midst of a boom in natural gas and oil production, much of which has occurred in shale formations around the country. As shale development has expanded — largely as a result of new horizontal drilling and “slickwater” hydraulic fracturing (fracking, fracing, or hydofracking) techniques — questions have arisen regarding the environmental risks of drilling and fracturing in shales and how laws, policies, and regulations address these risks. To understand whether and how regulation addresses risks, one must know both the content of regulations and how they are applied through inspections of well sites, notations of violations, and/or enforcement. An accompanying paper by this author, entitled “Regulation of Shale Gas Development, Including Hydraulic Fracturing” addresses the content of federal, regional, state, and local regulations that apply to shale gas development; this paper explores, in a preliminary fashion, how these regulations are applied. It briefly surveys complaints about shale gas and tight sands development (both of which typically require fracturing) lodged by citizens with state agencies, states’ notation of environmental violations at shale gas and tight sands wells both in response to these complaints and as a result of independently-instigated site visits or self-reported violations, and states’ capacity to inspect sites and enforce violations noted. The objective of this “on-the-ground” review of shale gas development regulatory activities is to offer a preliminary picture of the environmental effects of shale gas development and how states address them through citations of violations and/or initiation of enforcement action. Regulations have little effect if they are rarely applied to regulated actors or only sporadically enforced. Looking to both the content of regulations, violations of the regulations, and enforcement therefore provides a more complete regulatory picture. The Energy Institute at the University of Texas funded the research for this paper.

Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, fracturing, fracture, fracking, frack, fracing, frac, hydrofracking, hydrofracturing, regulation, enforcement, violations, state, environmental, environment

Suggested Citation

Wiseman, Hannah Jacobs, State Enforcement of Shale Gas Development Regulations, Including Hydraulic Fracturing (August 25, 2011). FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Hannah Jacobs Wiseman (Contact Author)

Penn State Law – University Park ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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