Fracturing Regulation Applied
24 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2012 Last revised: 25 Mar 2015
Date Written: January 7, 2012
America has a long history of oil and gas extraction, but a relatively new extraction technique called slickwater hydraulic fracturing has captured the attention of the public, academics, agencies, and politicians. The newly-revived focus on domestic oil and gas — and particularly on fracturing — has tended to center around the adequacy of environmental laws as written. A range of interested parties have questioned whether states, which shoulder the core responsibilities for regulating drilling and fracturing, have adequate regulatory regimes to address an array of potential environmental effects. The focus has tended to be on the text of regulations, however, and not on how regulations operate in practice: How states apply regulations by inspecting sites, noting violations, and enforcing violations when they believe that enforcement is justified. This paper expands the small literature that has emerged in this area, providing a preliminary glimpse into state environmental regulations applied to wells that are drilled and fractured. It briefly explores the types of violations that states have noted so far at fractured wells, the enforcement actions that they have issued in response, and the potential reasons for these patterns. Although much more detailed work will be necessary to accurately pinpoint regulatory patterns, the initial picture suggests a wide array of violations and enforcements associated with a range of potential environmental effects — many benign, but some serious. States have noted a number of substantial issues, from spills to improper maintenance of pits for waste, while others have tended to identify less pressing matters, such as operators’ failure to mow weeds around the wellhead. States’ enforcement responses to these violations also have varied substantially, perhaps due to differing policy directives and wills to enforce, budgetary needs, understaffing, or problems of regulatory capture.
Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, fracking, fracing, frac, frack, hydrofracking, shale, natural gas, gas, enforcement, violation, state, oil, agency
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