Environmental Regulations and Hydraulic Fracturing
PS 100A Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
June 7, 2011
Environmental Regulations and Hydraulic Fracturing:
In the case of Hydraulic Fracturing, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the government agencies given the authority to monitor and regulate the waste disposal of flowback and the injection of fracturing chemicals and fluids used in the process. Although there are also state regulations on hydraulic fracturing and the production of fossil fuels, the federal government is the main authority (EPA, 2010).
The disposal of the flowback into United States surface waters is also regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program (Water: Hydraulic Fracturing, 2010). There are several statutes that can be leveraged to protect the quality of water; however, the EPA relies on the Safe Drinking Water Act as its central authority to regulate (EPA, 2010).
Hydraulic Fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is a proven technological advancement used by gas and oil companies to safely obtain natural gas and oil from deep shale formations below the Earth’s surface. This discovery may potentially reduce our reliance dramatically on foreign imports while greatly reducing our national carbon footprint (Chesapeake Energy, 2011).
The process of Hydraulic Fracturing creates fractures in formations underground that allow natural gas and oil to flow. The process uses high pressure, to pump water, sand, and other additives into the shale formations to cause fractures to be created. Typically, in modern Hydraulic Fracturing, the fluid used is 98% water and sand, with small amounts of special-purpose additives (Chesapeake Energy, 2011). This process forces the fractures to open which allows the natural gas and oil to be collected at the water’s surface.
Scientists have known for many years that natural gas and oil deposits were released from deep shale formations; however, until recently they have always thought we could not recover the deposits. Now, because of fracking, combined with sophisticated horizontal drilling, large amounts of natural gas and oil deposits are safely being produced from across the United States (Chesapeake Energy, 2011).
Fracking has become a key element of natural gas and oil development throughout the United States and the remainder of the world. The process has been used by the natural gas and oil industry since the 1940’s. According to one article the process of hydraulic fracturing is used in almost every natural gas wells that are drilled in the United States. The process of fracking, when properly conducted, is a highly engineered, controlled, sophisticated and safe procedure (Chesapeake Energy, 2011).
According to the textbook when comparing the costs of environmental regulations to the benefits, the benefits far outweigh the financial impact. One EPA study on clean air found the benefits to be 6-10 times greater than the cost of complying with the regulations. We as consumers saved in hospitalization cost reductions and emergency room visits, premature deaths, along with less sick days at work, all combined accounted for an estimated $118-177 billion in financial savings (Withgott & Brennan, 2010, p. 180).
Today’s environmental policy is focused on environmental sustainability and global warming, or climate change. In many of its studies the EPA consults scientists, specialists, and local officials to determine the best way and most cost effective way, to change or regulate environmental processes. The command-and-control policy used by the EPA is oftentimes criticized for making changes costly and ineffective. However, the policy mandates solutions to the problems; thus, it allows the private marketplace to compete, resulting in better solutions at a lower cost (Withgott & Brennan, 2010, p. 178). Their goal is to keep the air we breathe and the water we drink, along with other natural resources in harmony.
Many times, the studies conducted by the EPA determine the health benefits alone are a savings to us, not to mention we have a cleaner environment, fresh air and clean water. We all need to take responsibility for a cleaner environment. It is important that corporations are responsible with their carbon footprint and sustainability measures; nevertheless, it is important that all citizens do their part. Simple things like recycling and picking up trash are only a small part of what we can do on a more global scale to make an impact.
Chesapeake Energy (2011). Hydraulic fracturing: Fact sheet, Retrieved June 04, 2011, from
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2010). Regulation of hydraulic fracturing by
the Office of Water, Retrieved June 04, 2011, from http://water.epa.gov.
Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2010). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (4th ed.).
New York. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN: 13: 978-0-321-71534—0.