Study finds communities need to be proactive about fracking

July 29, 2016, Taylor & Francis

What are communities doing to address the potential adverse effects of fracking? Not a lot, according to the results of a new study.

Fracking, horizontal high-volume is a process that forces a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure deep into the ground to extract oil and natural gas in shale rock formations. Fracking has allowed the United States to become a net energy exporter, but has created substantial problems for local communities hosting fracking operations.

Authors Carolyn G. Loh, associate professor at Wayne State University, and Anna C. Osland, founder and principal of Anna C. Osland Consulting, surveyed 140 local governments in four states with very active fracking: Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The authors set out to determine the kinds of policies these local governments adopted to address the negative impacts of fracking and the role organizational capacity had on how local governments deal with fracking.

In "Local Land Use Planning Responses to Hydraulic Fracturing," Loh and Osland found that the most common local government response was no response at all. Fifty-four of the communities surveyed had not adopted any regulations to address any of the problems caused locally by fracking activities.

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

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

While the environmental impacts of fracking are hotly debated, fracking can also have a positive impact on local economies. Pros and cons aside, fracking operations can create substantial management problems for local governments and expose local residents to serious health, safety, and environmental hazards. This leaves local communities that might or do host such operations "scrambling" to address fracking, not trusting the state or federal government to protect them.

The authors 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—more knowledge 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 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 imposes on to add up.

Explore further: UK anti-fracking groups to fight on after landmark decision

More information: Carolyn G. Loh et al. Local Land Use Planning Responses to Hydraulic Fracturing, Journal of the American Planning Association (2016). DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2016.1176535

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7 comments

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ForFreeMinds
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2016
"Fracking has allowed the United States to become a net energy exporter, but has created substantial problems for local communities hosting fracking operations. ... fracking operations can create substantial management problems for local governments and expose local residents to serious health, safety, and environmental hazards."

The "serious health, safety and environmental hazards" aren't explained and from what I've read they seem insignificant and mainly limited to those working at wells. https://en.wikipe...th_risks

I'd say the "management problems" that governments have, are related to satisfying the desires of environmentalists and extracting money from those engaged in fracking their wells; otherwise, they'd have nothing to do.

gkam
1 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2016
"I'd say the "management problems" that governments have, are related to satisfying the desires, . . . "
---------------------------------------------

Yes, you would. And those who live through them think otherwise.
chileastro
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2016
Hey "Free", then you'll agree that there's a real management problem when people have no voice- literally, by law. After Denton, TX voted to ben it within city limits, the state lege passed a law that makes it illegal to restrict, prohibit or interfere with fracking activities. Kids in Pennsylvania are under a lifetime gag order to not discuss it. You whine about government interference and subsidies, how about a little intellectual integrity?

The reality is that it's being implemented with little long term data and that makes well intentioned management hard. I have a well in my backyard. I don't want it, but I don't have a choice, and the owner has been very responsive and fair about management, mineral rights and compensation. We don't know enough about how paleogeology interacts with the process, creating huge problems in northern OK, and some in north Dallas. Oklahoma is actually shutting down wells that are clearly causing damage. Long term effect on the aquifer...
chileastro
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2016
As usual, it is not a black and white battle between bloody minded greenies and Mr. Burns. The objection most people that use data to draw their conclusions have with this and every other energy policy that is current in effect in the US, is that it amounts to a huge, uncontrolled experiment. My God, the FDA won't let us take something as innocuous as L-tryptophan because it hasn't been tested enough, but when it comes to energy...take the best stab and hope we don't f*(*k thing up too badly.

I can't get an apartment without having to show proof of insurance from a well capitalized carrier, but some energy companies operate without liability coverage every day. That's just insane. Get insurance, contribute to the research. Most are, some are not. It's knee-jerk reactions like yours and Georgie's that make it a political hot potato. Research, rationality and realism are sorely needed.
chileastro
5 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2016
As a case in point, OPEC's plan to make it unprofitable is having effects. In some areas only 20% the wells are in operation now, compared to 2011. It's not commercially viable below $100/barrel, and OPEC was going to flood the market, keep prices low, starve the frackers. There have been two responses. Fewer, smarter wells. If you can make a case that a well is a potential liability, they'll gladly move it to the bottom of the list and run more efficient less risky ones.

But what you should care about and- EXCUSE ME- has this been brought up ONCE during the current election cycle? Lifting the US export ban. This has a lot to do with OPEC's reaction. It will hugely affect future fracking. It's totally off almost everyone's radar, just like vested interests like it. Keep the rabble yelling slogans at each other whilst they formulate the consequential bits behind closed doors.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 29, 2016
chile, that ban went in when we got scared of "running out" of oil and panicked. Maybe it is time for a re-assessment.
chileastro
not rated yet Aug 16, 2016
You know it will lead to an increase in drilling, no?

I don't why you'd argue for "leave it in the ground" and then expand the market.

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