Fracturing the Keystone: Why Fracking in Pennsylvania Should Be Considered an Abnormally Dangerous Activity

48 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2014 Last revised: 1 Oct 2015

Date Written: January 24, 2013

Abstract

This comment argues that unconventional horizontal fracking should be considered an “abnormally dangerous” activity in Pennsylvania because such a classification is both legally appropriate and paramount in mitigating the future harms of fracking. Part II(A) describes the geological characteristics of the Marcellus shale deposit, including its potential gas reserves and the technological challenges of extracting them. Part II(B) provides a detailed description of the recently pioneered fracking procedure and the environmental risks it presents. Part III discusses the current regulatory framework that applies to fracking in Pennsylvania and discusses the failures of that framework to sufficiently protect the public. Part IV traces the common law development of strict liability, applies the current rule to fracking, and discusses the negative results of alternatively analyzing fracking under a negligence regime. Part V concludes that fracking will become increasingly safer through the imposition of strict liability, which will mitigate the negative environmental impacts of the industry, and in time, allow for expanding gas production through safer methods.

Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, environmental law, tort law, Pennsylvania law, common law, natural gas

JEL Classification: H23, I18, K13, K11, K23, K32

Suggested Citation

Rinaldi, Richard, Fracturing the Keystone: Why Fracking in Pennsylvania Should Be Considered an Abnormally Dangerous Activity (January 24, 2013). Widener Law Journal, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2541145

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