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Hydraulic Fracturing

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 [1], [2].

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:


Additional Resources

United States Geological Survey: What is hydraulic fracturing?

Geological Society of America: Hydraulic Fracturing

United States Environmental Protection Agency: Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development

FracFocus: Chemical Disclosure Registry

Department of Energy: Shale Research & Development

Environmental Impact Assessment: Natural Gas Explained


Last updated August 20, 2020


1. “Hydraulically fractured horizontal wells account for most new oil and natural gas wells,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018. [Online]. Available:

2. “Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s Statement to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Driving Innovation through Federal Investments,” U.S. Department of Energy, 2014. [Online]. Available:

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