Fracking Policy Analysis Essay

Total Length: 3910 words ( 13 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 15

Page 1 of 13

1. Executive summary

While the extraction of natural gas by means of hydraulic fracturing is a decade- long practice, of late, it has witnessed immense development owing to advancements in the area of horizontal drilling which enables gas and oil operators to now harness earlier- unprofitable natural gas reserves within rock formations. Extant extraction- related policies combine state-federal alliances and voluntary endeavors by private organizations. More unprejudiced, scientific studies providing details on how fracturing and extraction potentially affect environmental media like water and air are essential, in addition to those focusing on natural gas surges’ long- term effects on local societies. Primary models and hypotheses may offer a basis to reasonably discuss possible effects.

Maintenance of the current state of affairs with regard to free market rules and governmental policies will potentially continually check short- run public expenses; however, it will not contribute sufficiently to furthering response to concerns regarding about hydraulic fracturing’s possible negative impacts on communities and nature. Supplies of natural gas will grow constantly, constraining growth of energy rates or lowering them and possibly generating income from forex. If community and environmental concerns go unsubstantiated, at the very least, economic growth will not be impacted and public expenditure will have been curbed. But the substantiation of the above concerns will render extant policies ‘too little too late’, leading to potential acute environmental damage or bankruptcy of communities addressing bust- boom impacts. Relevant policy alternatives include federal laws, conditions mandatory for fracking operators, chemical disclosure conditions, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supervision and monitoring, drilling site limitations, water supply- linked requisites and the procurement of an ample number of competent regulators.

Numerous policies which may be implemented have been put forward. Decisions pertaining to degree of regulation of extraction need to balance public safety and health, energy requirements, and the unavoidable associated bureaucracy. Research reveals horizontal drilling, shale- gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing would, on the whole, profit from 1) More organized, sustained scientific research; 2) taking into account a more robust federal or state law; 3) reviewing hydrocarbons’ (including methane’s) likely impacts on health if they enter drinking water supplies; and 4) industry- specific strategies for the development of securer, more consistent techniques of extraction.

2. Introduction

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing constitutes a major issue plaguing America’s energy industry over the last ten years (Clark et al., 2012). It may be described as a way to increase natural gas and oil well production by opening or breaking rock formations through the utilization of high- pressure fluid injections (Finkel, Hays & Law, 2013). The above extraction mode has garnered significant focus within America as it allows extraction of gas and oil from shale rock. The process has elevated gas and oil yield in the nation, rendering it one among the world’s largest natural gas and oil producers. Estimates reveal that it will eliminate the nation’s reliance on other countries for energy by the end of this decade. In this paper, America’s fracking policy will be addressed through a review of problem background, presentation and analysis of potential policy alternatives, and recommendation of a suitable policy in this respect.

Policymakers have given much emphasis to the area of fracking with the government at the federal level, in particular, initiating numerous administrative and legal fracking- related programs for over ten years (Clark et al., 2012; Finkel et al., 2013). Coal- bed methane gas fracking went unregulated under the 1974 SWDA (Safe Drinking Water Act), which regulates underground injection endeavors via an Underground Injection Control Program. This program covers Class II natural gas/ oil- production related wells. Fracking constitutes a national- level problem but, at present, it isn’t integrated into SWDA requirements and federal environmental regulation (Finkel et al., 2013). Considering the above exception, fracking regulations have largely been affected by state governments. But America’s energy industry has demanded amendments in fracking legislation, serving as the political and historical basis for formulating federal laws on the subject.

3. Background of the issue (or legislative history) 

A majority of federal laws put forward on the topic of fracking haven’t been ratified. Sponsored by a number of senators and House representatives, these laws have been taken up by appropriate committees. Committees have been acquainted with and received referrals of recommended fracking- related resolutions, discussed prior to being forwarded to the entire chamber. Ever since the first introduction of the 2009 Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, it hasn’t been ratified despite being re- introduced four more times (Cotton, 2017). Challenges linked to the implementation of these federal rules may be ascribed to state policy establishment and control over drilling undertakings (Spence, 2014).

SDWA- exemption has driven proposed laws and policies on fracking. As demonstrated by legal analyses, this policy problem’s development entails introducing proposals by numerous sponsors, discussions on the floor of both congressional houses and committee discourse and outcome reporting (Cotton, 2017; Spence, 2014). But lawmakers have had to encounter several challenges and have, thus far, remained unsuccessful in implementing fracking- related federal laws.

Fracking legislation within the nation dates back to 1974, the year of enactment of the SDWA which instituted novel rules and standards for the safeguarding of underground drinking water sources. In spite of its 25- year- long commercial utilization, SDWA failed to take fracking into account. In the year 1994, the LEAF (Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation) appealed to the EPA for the withdrawal of authorization to conduct underground injection control in Alabama, contending that SDWA necessitated EPA regulation of fracking (Rahm, 2011).

The 2005 Energy Policy Act provides for unintentional codification for fracking regulation by the SDWA. Three years later, large- scale sampling and examinations by the COGCC (Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission) indicated no drinking water effects of gas and oil (Davis, 2012). The year 2009 witnessed a number of house representatives, with Democrat Colorado representative, Diana DeGette, at the head, introducing FRAC, intended to rewrite SDWA goals. But it was rendered unsuccessful by opponents who claimed the proposal aimed at creating a novel, possibly- intrusive regulatory initiative (Heikkila et al., 2014).

In the year 2010, Wyoming ratified a legislation necessitating disclosing of additives utilized in the process of fracking. In the same year, Arkansas implemented novel regulations necessitating disclosing of additives utilized in the process of fracking, a step taken by Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Michigan and Montana in the following year.

During Obama’s State of the Union address in 2012, natural gas production from shale was strongly supported. A few months later, a draft report was issued by the EPA claiming no proofs existed of fracking contaminating drinking water (Konschnik & Boling, 2014).

4. Policy options and evaluation criteria

a. Policy Options and Framework
Considering the challenges threatening to overwhelm fracking, discussions between federal, state and local stakeholders is crucial for the assessment of prospective policy alternatives which may be implemented by individual governmental levels. This discourse necessitates effective education of the masses on associated problems and a framework which objectively, thoroughly and constructively showcases the problems. Therefore, to aid this discussion, the problem may be outlined in the following way: Public concerns have been raised with regard to natural gas extraction such that additional energy is generated whilst, simultaneously, natural resources are safeguarded for their safe utilization by plants, animals and mankind and economic progress is enhanced and maintained (Ferrell & Sanders, 2013). The above concerns incorporate the ideal management of possible community and environmental effects stemming from natural gas resource development.

Given the aforementioned framing of the issue, the discourse turns in the direction of policy options on hand to deal with such concerns, together with potential related consequences. Policy options spring, normally, from dialogue between novices and specialists in the industry, opposition novices and specialists, state and community heads, university or public research workers, etc. Akin to all other policy issues, public policy resolutions represent a blend of what authorities elect to perform and what they elect not to (Ferrell & Sanders, 2013). Such policies stem from interactions between myths, actual facts, and personal values. Scientific circles are often found endeavoring to differentiate between truths and myths; however, in actuality, concerned persons’ and groups’ values influence fact consideration during the policymaking process.

Ascertaining policy alternatives is a sensitive issue. However, the current state of affairs ought to be the reference point for the above process. Even if one regards the current state of things as being “bad”, one must not forget the fact that it offers a launch pad to commence public debate. Under nearly all circumstances, status quo policies constitute a hodgepodge of agency- administered regulations across every governmental level. Furthermore, the existing state of affairs might incorporate outcomes arrived at through free- market exchanges, in which there is no involvement of any particular governmental entity (Ferrell & Sanders, 2013). Hence, in this context, less or more governmental participation constitutes the basis for the development of status quo alternatives.….....

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Clark, C., Burnham, A., Harto, C., & Horner, R. (2012). Hydraulic fracturing and shale gas production: technology, impacts, and policy. Argonne National Laboratory.

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Romo, C. R. (2014). Hydraulic Fracturing, Uncooperative Federalism, and Technological Innovation. Geo. Wash. J. Energy & Envtl. L., 5, 1.

Spence, D. (2014). Fracking Regulations: Is Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Around the Corner?. EMIC.

Theodori, G. L., Luloff, A. E., Willits, F. K., & Burnett, D. B. (2014). Hydraulic fracturing and the management, disposal, and reuse of frac flowback waters: Views from the public in the Marcellus Shale. Energy Research & Social Science, 2, 66-74.

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