Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to allow oil and natural gas to move more freely from the rock pores where they are trapped to a producing well that can bring them to the surface. The technology was developed in the late 1940s and has been continuously improved and applied since that time. The process of hydraulic fracturing plays a major role in the development of virtually all unconventional oil and natural gas resources.

Please visit www.fracfocus.org for additional information regarding hydraulic fracturing. 

State Regulation

Hydraulic fracturing is regulated by the states. IOGCC member states each have comprehensive laws and regulations to provide for safe operations and to protect drinking water sources, and have trained personnel to effectively regulate oil and gas exploration and production. 

On March 5, 2009, the IOGCC hosted two briefings on Capitol Hill to explain state regulation of oil and natural gas. The presentation included an explanation of hydraulic fracturing and how existing state regulations prevent contamination of drinking water resources during hydraulic fracturing operations.

Is Hydraulic Fracturing Safe?

In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed a study of the environmental risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing of coal bed methane wells. The EPA concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids poses little or no threat to underground sources of drinking water.

Although thousands of wells are fractured annually, the EPA did not find a single incident of the contamination of drinking water wells by hydraulic fracturing fluid injection. Additionally, IOGCC member states have all stated that there have been no cases where hydraulic fracturing has been verified to have contaminated drinking water.

Congressional Action

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), section 322, amended the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to change the definition of "underground injection" to exclude "the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations. The amendment exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal law and gave jurisdiction and authority over hydraulic fracturing operations to the states.

Bills were introduced into the House and Senate in June of 2009 to repeal this exemption and place the regulatory jurisdiction in the hands of the federal government.

The IOGCC passed a resolution in December of 2008 urging Congress to refrain from taking such action maintaining that SDWA was never intended to grant the federal government authority to regulate oil and gas drilling operations and production operations, such as hydraulic fracturing, under the Underground Injection Control Program. Since that time, several states have followed suit and filed their own resolutions including Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

"As the head regulator of oil and natural gas development in the state of North Dakota and an officer of the IOGCC representing all oil and natural gas producing state regulators, I can assure you that we have no higher priority than the protection of our states' water resources," said Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources in a House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing in June of 2009. "It is my firmly held view and that of the IOGCC that the subject of hydraulic fracturing is adequately regulated by the states and needs no further study."