rom California to New York, American citizens are accepting millions to have wells drilled in their backyards with a disclaimer of shaky cabinets and contaminated water. These payments come from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which has the United States on track to become the world’s leader in gas and oil production. The fracking process; where water, sand, and chemicals are injected underground at very high pressures to crack rock layers and release oil or gas trapped inside, was first used by oil companies in the 1940s to increase flow from gas wells. Recent advances in the technology are where the fun comes in; US companies figured out how to combine fracking with methods like horizontal drilling to extract oil and gas from underground shale rock at an economical price. The boom has sharply risen domestic production of oil and natural gas, created jobs and “plays a critical role in reviving America’s economy” according to Barry Russell, chief executive of The Independent Petroleum Association of America. Opponents are concerned about poor regulation, air and water pollution and the effect on climate change.
On March 20th, the Obama Administration unveiled the nation’s first major federal regulations on fracking, “The states have jurisdiction over drilling on private and state-owned land, where the vast majority of fracking is done in the United States. The new federal rules, by contrast, will cover about 100,000 oil and gas wells drilled on public lands,” according to the Interior Department. The regulations cover many safety and security standards: allowing government workers to inspect concrete barriers that line fracking wells, require companies to publicly disclose chemicals used, set safety standards for how companies store used fracking chemicals, and require companies to submit detailed information on well-geology. Oil and gas companies fear a raised cost of fracking and a slow development from the regulations, while environmental groups say they include too many concessions to the industry. Fracking has concerned many citizens across America, and these regulations will help them to sleep a little better at night as a well is being drilled 2 miles beneath their communities.