Hydraulic fracturing is a technique to extract oil and gas from underground reserves. Large quantities of fluids pumped at high pressure break apart the rock to release oil and gas. More than half of U.S. states are home to hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells. Estimates indicate that nearly 70 percent of all producing wells in the United States, including the vast majority of new wells, are hydraulically fractured , .
Scientific studies show that hydraulic fracturing and related activities have caused environmental impacts, including surface and groundwater contamination, soil contamination and air pollution as well as the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Hydraulic fracturing activity has also been linked to exposure to toxic chemicals and other adverse health effects.
Scientific evidence regarding hydraulic fracturing and its impacts can help officials at the federal, state, and local levels identify, evaluate and mitigate the environmental and public health risks of hydraulic fracturing.
While oil and natural gas development is regulated under federal environmental and public health laws, there are exemptions for hydraulic fracturing activities. As a result, many states developed their own regulations and requirements for hydraulic fracturing activities to reduce the associated risks. This may include:
- Well placement
- Management of orphan wells
- Methane emission mitigation
- Reporting protocols for spills or leaks
- Disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid
- Proper storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater