The Fracking Debate: A Policymaker’s Guide

The Fracking Debate: A Policymaker’s Guide.

The Fracking Debate: A Policymaker’s Guide

Content Items

  • Hydraulic Fracturing: The 2012 Debate
    • Domestic Resource and Production Projections
    • Low and Stable Prices, for Now
    • Economic Benefits: Impact Studies and Their Omissions
    • Public Health and Environmental Concerns
  • States Take Action: The Balancing Act
    • 2012 Legislative Trend Overview
  • State Policy Actions
    • Generating Revenue
    • Increasing Transparency
    • Water Quality Protection
    • Monitoring to Improve Knowledge Base
  • Federal Action
  • Outlook
  • Appendix
  • Notes

NCSL Staff Contact

Jacquelyn Pless

drilling rrigApril 2012

By Jacquelyn Pless

Concerns about hydraulic fracturing are behind many states’ reluctance to tap the economic benefits created by natural gas development. Hydraulic fracturing—“fracking”—is an oil and gas extraction method that uses hydraulic pressure to break up rock. Millions of gallons of pressurized liquids, usually a water-based mixture of sand and chemical additives, are pumped deep underground to help release trapped gas.

This report provides an introduction to the domestic natural gas picture, explores the motivation behind state legislative involvement in fracking regulation, and summarizes state legislation that is being developed to address environmental concerns.

Hydraulic Fracturing: The 2012 Debate

Fracking allows access to previously inaccessible resources, such as shale gas, which is making up an increasingly large portion of the overall energy supply in the United States.

Combined with recent advances in horizontal drilling, the technology has opened up resources that, only a decade ago, were too expensive to develop. Some forecast that this increase in supply could sustain current U.S. consumption levels for another 90 years. Rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing in densely populated regions where the process is unfamiliar, however, has focused attention on its potential to affect public health and the environment.

Domestic Resource and Production Projections

Cumulative natural gas production from 2010 through 2035 is projected to be 7 percent higher than expected just a year ago.1 This is mainly due to technological advances in hydraulic fracturing that now make shale gas more accessible. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), shale gas production alone will increase nearly threefold from 5.0 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to 13.6 trillion cubic feet in 2035. This equates to 23 percent of total U.S. dry gas production in 2010 and 49 percent of total U.S. dry gas production in 2035 (Figure 1).

The EIA expects domestic natural gas production to exceed consumption early in the next decade. By 2016, the United States is projected to become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and an overall net exporter of natural gas by 2021.2

Download PDF (18 page document) to access the full report.

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