News Feature | June 17, 2014

Fracking Wastewater Rules Divide States

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The states are taking vastly different approaches to the regulation of fracking wastewater, forging policies that could have a significant impact on water pollution across the country.  

Lisa Rushton and Candice Castaneda, attorneys at the law firm Paul Hastings, sized up various states to see how harsh they are on fracking operations. 

States are walking a tightrope "between the positive economics that flow from shale gas development and public concerns with regard to the environment and scientific uncertainty," the attorneys said.  

They categorized state regulations of fracking wastewater as "reactive" to public concern, "restrictive" to fracking operations, or "facilitative" of the energy industry.

The reactive states: Pennsylvania and Ohio.

These states have "significant experience in managing wastewater issues and competing concerns raised by both industry and the general public," the analysis said. 

Both have already experienced high-profile run-ins with the dangers of fracking. 

Last year, "researchers found high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in the water and sediments downstream from a fracking wastewater plant on Blacklick Creek in western Pennsylvania," NBC News reported

Meanwhile, some researchers claim that Ohio is experiencing a greater number of earthquakes as a result of fracking. The state "is leading a group of drilling states working with seismology experts from energy companies, government agencies and universities across the U.S. on how best to detect and regulate human-induced earthquakes," the Associated Press reported

The restrictive states: Vermont and Arkansas. 

Back in 2012, Vermont became "the first state to outlaw [fracking]," Reuters reported. It was a "largely symbolic move given the state's apparent lack of energy reserves."

"Arkansas is less restrictive, but has gone so far as to impose a complete ban on use of wastewater disposal wells due to concern with seismic activity," the Paul Hastings analysis said. 

The facilitative state: Texas, which is experiencing a fracking boom. 

"Oil equals boom — especially in population now. And Texas, in the midst of a significant energy rush, is seeing its towns and cities burst at the seams," the Associated Press reported

The state has taken steps toward lowering the cost of recycling fracking wastewater, according to the legal analysis. 

For more oil and gas news, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center

Image credit: "Map of U.S. Routes," “Caveman Chuck” Coker © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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