Fracking across the Globe: The Debate in the United States and Europe and the Role of Federal, State, and Local Regulations

By Karam, Lauren | Suffolk Transnational Law Review, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Fracking across the Globe: The Debate in the United States and Europe and the Role of Federal, State, and Local Regulations


Karam, Lauren, Suffolk Transnational Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

When facing the global energy needs of today, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a method of natural gas extraction, has been controversial in the United States as well as in various countries in Europe. (1) While fracking proponents argue the economic benefits of fracking, many environmentalists object to the potential effects that fracking could have on water, air, and land. (2) In various states throughout the United States, fracking has delivered promising results along with environmental concerns. (3) Similarly, some European nations, such as the United

Kingdom and Poland, have experienced both the benefits and detriments of fracking. (4) Recent fracking development indicates that there are insufficient regulations in both the United States and Europe. (5)

This Note explains the regulatory framework in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland. (6) It further explores the regulatory gaps in various states within the United States as well as the regulatory framework in European nations. (7) Part II will discuss the history of fracking, explaining how it emerged in each nation. (8) Part III will show the flaws in the current regulations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland. (9) Part IV will analyze the best approaches going forward--including collaborative laws at the local, national, and international level. (10) Lastly, Part V will conclude with emphasizing the gaps in fracking regulations and the need for more effective laws in the United States and Europe. (11)

II. HISTORY

A. The United States

1. Fracking Origins in the United States

Drilling for natural gas has been a common practice in the United States for over a century. (12) Although fracking has been used since the 1940s, it was mainly done in conventional vertical oil and gas wells. (13) In the 1990s, an improvement in technology allowed for fracking to be utilized in unconventional horizontal drilling. (14) Natural gas trapped within shale formations is difficult to extract, and it is necessary to use fracking technology to capture the gas. (15) Advancements in technology made accessible natural gas that was previously impossible to extract. (16)

2. Federal Environmental Laws in the United States

In the late 1900s, Congress passed environmental protection legislation. (17) This included the creation of the EPA in 1970. (18) The EPA is an executive agency responsible for enforcing federal environmental laws. (19) The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, regulates air emissions and authorizes the EPA to establish National Air Quality Standards. (20) Two years later, in 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters and creates quality standards for surface waters. (21) The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), passed in 1974, protects drinking water quality in the United States in both above ground and underground sources. (22) Continuing this trend of environmental law making, in 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLCA) established the Federal Superfund that is used to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites; CERLCA also applies to accidents, spills, and other environmental emergencies. (23) In 1999, Congress passed the Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act, which pertains to flammable fluids and "public access to off-site consequence analysis data." (24) During the George W. Bush administration, the Energy Act of 2005 was passed; this Act exempted fluids used in fracking that were otherwise regulated under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking

Water Act, and CERCLA. (25) In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which had the goal of improving the energy performance of the federal government and moving the United States towards stronger energy security. …

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