Aug 03, 2016

Study Finds Lack of Local Fracking Regulation

Researchers analyzed Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania local governments

fracking, local government, regulations, research

Researchers found that most local governments in Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Pennsylvania—states with active fracking—have no regulations to address problems caused by local fracking activities.

In “Local Land Use Planning Responses to Hydraulic Fracturing,” which was published in the Journal of the American Planning Assn., Carolyn G. Loh, associate professor for Wayne State University, and Anna C. Osland, founder and principal of Anna C. Osland Consulting, surveyed 140 local governments in Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

The authors set out to determine the kinds of policies these local governments adopt to address the negative impacts of fracking and the role organizational capacity has on how local governments deal with fracking. According to the study, the most common local government response was no response at all. Of the communities surveyed, 54 had not adopted any regulations to address the problems caused locally by fracking activities.

Of the survey respondents that have adopted regulations, the five most common local policies include:

  1. 1. Restricting the location of industrial activities;
  2. 2. Mandating fencing and landscaping around fracking sites;
  3. 3. Preventing vehicles used in fracking operations from traveling on certain roadways;
  4. 4. Requiring special use permits for drilling sites; and
  5. 5. Establishing setbacks for the compressor stations associated with fracking options.

Fracking has allowed the U.S. to become a net energy exporter, but also has created substantial problems for local communities hosting fracking operations.

While fracking can have a positive impact on local commmunities, its environmental impacts are hotly debated. Fracking operations can create substantial management problems for local governments and expose local residents to health, safety and environmental hazards. Because of this, local communities that host such operations may attempt to address fracking, but not trust the state or federal government to protect them.

The researchers found that communities could use existing land use, noise and zoning restrictions to regulate fracking operations to some degree, even though survey respondents reported concern there was little they could do to address local fracking impacts.

Communities with more capacity (i.e., knowledgeable and experienced technical staff), as well as those that had experienced a fracking-related industrial accident, were more likely to have adopted some regulations to either prevent or address fracking issues.

Loh and Osland conclude that local governments do have some room to regulate local fracking operations. They recommend that states invest in providing capacity building at the local level, offering technical assistance and training to local planners and administrators. The authors stress that communities should be proactive and not wait for an industrial accident or the cumulatively greater environmental, health or economic costs that fracking could impose on local communities.

For more information on the research, click here.