Regulation of Radioactive Fracking Wastes

63 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2017 Last revised: 4 Mar 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth Geltman

Elizabeth Geltman

CUNY School of Public Health

Nichole LeClair

CUNY School of Public Health

Date Written: August 31, 2017


Natural gas extracted form shale reached record production totals in 2015 in the United States and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts natural gas production will continue to increase. Wastes from shale gas extraction can contain the radioactive isotopes radium-226 (Ra-226) and radium-228 (Ra-228), which decay further into radon (Rn). Exposure to radon, a form of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking. This article explores how states handle the disposal of technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM) and/or NORM waste from oil and gas operations to evaluate which states have developed the most protective practices when regulating NORM and TENORM waste from unconventional oil and gas operations to reduce adverse radiological health effects. The study concludes that although some states are regulating NORM and TENORM, other states may be inadequately addressing these wastes generated through oil and gas productions. Under-regulation is complicated by the fact that multiple agencies may have jurisdiction to handle wastes. Guidance, laws, and/or regulations may be needed to facilitate safety and health measures in states where inadequacies could potentially harm humans, animals, and the environment.

Keywords: shale gas extraction, radiation, radon, NORM, TENORM, fracking, fracing, shale oil extraction, naturally occurring radioactive materials, environmental law, environmental health, occupational law, occupational health

JEL Classification: K32, K31, I14, I18, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5, Q25, Q32, Q33, Q35, Q38, Q40, Q48, Q53, Q56, Q58

Suggested Citation

Geltman, Elizabeth and LeClair, Nichole, Regulation of Radioactive Fracking Wastes (August 31, 2017). Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 19, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Geltman (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Public Health ( email )

55 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
United States

Nichole LeClair

CUNY School of Public Health ( email )

2180 Third Avenue
Room 524
New York, NY 10035
United States

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