The Fracking Boom: Rise and Regulation

First name: 
Mary Beth
Last name: 
Class Year: 
Susan Rose-Ackerman
Essay Abstract: 
Beginning in the 1970s, the DOE began funding research for unconventional energy recovery resulting in the creation of horizontal slickwater fracturing. The technique, known as fracking, boomed at the turn of the 21st century unlocking the nation’s vast natural gas resources. The development brought the long-standing debate of environmental federalism into light, questioning which level of government should be responsible for the regulation. The energy crisis of the early 2000s, DOE investment, and overall uncertainty regarding environmental consequences culminated in the “Halliburton Loophole,” exempting fracking from portions of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act. These exemptions have left states responsible for drafting and implementing their own regulations as they see fit. However, state-based regulation has only been reactive and remains minimal, failing to address the externalities of fracking. A new federal regulatory scheme is unnecessary; national standards for water already exist to address these problems. In order to protect both public health and the environment, the first step Congress should take is to repeal the exemption of fracking from the SDWA.