Hydraulic Fracturing and Information Forcing
73 Ohio St. L.J. Furthermore 86 (2013)
12 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2013 Last revised: 11 Aug 2015
Date Written: June 23, 2012
Development of unconventional oil and gas wells has grown dramatically in the United States due largely to modified hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques. This development requires large numbers of small, temporary industrial facilities – thousands of two- to five-acre sites, some of which are, literally, in people’s backyards. In response to this highly visible activity, certain groups have demanded more information relating to environmental and health concerns. Drilled gas or oil wells can leak methane into underground and surface water supplies if the wells are improperly “cased” (lined with steel tubing and cement). Surface pits that hold drilling and fracturing wastes can cause chemicals to leak into soil and surface or underground water sources, and fracturing chemicals can spill during transport or while being transferred.
If we are to fully understand these types of risks, we need to know what contamination exists before widespread drilling and fracturing occurs. Indeed, energy companies often drill and fracture wells in areas that have previously experienced mining or other natural resource extraction, or other pollution-causing activity, including residential development. Better baseline data on existing contamination, and post development surveys, will allow scientists to identify the type and extent of the impacts of the unconventional oil and gas boom and agencies to implement better substantive regulations to prevent and mitigate them. It will also provide needed evidence for the courts, where damages caused by oil and gas drilling have been difficult to prove so far. Further, efforts toward producing more and better information in unconventional petroleum development might finally inspire real reform in the field of information forcing generally. Surveys of existing pollution of air, water, and soil resources could allow us to identify a variety of impacts caused by industrial activity – not just drilling and fracturing.
Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas, water, environmental law, information, information-forcing regulation, states, baseline testing, pollution, data, chemical disclosure, hydrogeological investigation
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