While the United States Environmental Protection Agency has yet to promulgate regulations concerning hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as “fracking”) and while individual states and municipalities develop their own individual rules and regulations over fracking and land use, the United States Department of Energy has recently stepped into the debate by creating a subcommittee panel that released its first of two reports concerning proposed recommendations over hydraulic fracking.
The subcommittee panel, composed mainly of academics associated with industry and environmental groups, took what many observed to be a pragmatic approach to fracking. On one hand, the report acknowledged the “enormous potential” of fracking, which could release large quantities natural gas that would help lead to more energy independence. On the other hand, the panel took careful note of fracking’s potential adverse impact on air quality and the possible, but “remote,” potential for pollution of drinking water.
Accordingly, the panel made several key recommendations to improve transparency over the process. Specifically, the report recommends a national database channeling public information and data about shale gas. The panel further recommended mandatory disclosures by the industry concerning the chemicals used in the fracking process, similar to the fracking disclosure law recently passed in Texas. The panel’s report also calls for federal oversight to analyze the greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas production. Finally, the report seeks further efforts to protect water wells.
The panel will soon release its second report, which will focus on federal regulatory oversight. It should be noted that certain environmental groups have criticized the DOE report.
The Department of Energy Subcommittee report can be found here: Shale Gas Production Subcommittee 90-Day Report, August 18, 2011.