Government Studies May Determine the Future of Fracking Regulation

Nov 2011 // ABA Energy Litigation Journal

To frack or not to frack? That is the question most often asked about the hydraulic fracturing—also called fracking—of natural gas. Fracking is described as an energy game changer that may allow access to a Saudi Arabia of natural gas here in the United States. It has already lowered natural gas prices and created thousands of jobs in the last several years alone, and it offers the potential to provide economic, environmental, and national-security benefits for many years to come. Concerns that fracking may cause environmental and health problems, however, have led to moratoriums in two states, tighter regulations in others, and governmental studies into its safety. Don’t look now, but the initial results of recent studies are promising: Fracking, it appears, is safe when done properly. The question then is not whether to frack, but twofold: (1) how can fracking be done safely, and (2) who ensures that this occurs—federal or state officials?

Jack Edwards and co-author Travis Oliver examine initial studies on hydraulic fracking, including safety concerns and proposed regulations by state and federal governments.