Hydraulic Fracturing - Fracing or Fracking?

Energy & Resources

By Scott Seapker

The debate over the spelling most likely depends on a person’s feeling towards hydraulic fracturing.  Individuals in the energy industry prefer the spelling fracing.  While it is more common in the anti-fracing community to refer to it as fracking, due to the similarities with a certain four-letter expletive.  The debate over hydraulic fracturing does not stop with the spelling.  The practice of horizontal drilling to extract unconventional gas, such as gas found in sandstone or coal beds, has drawn avid supporters and vehement opposition all over the country. 

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that keeps the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from imposing its own hydraulic fracturing regulations in states that have their own requirements in place.  Therefore, in the majority of cases, it is the state and local government that must determine if there should be restrictions against extracting gas in unconventional formations.  There are many legal battles ongoing throughout the country that will have a direct impact on the oil and gas industry.  New York has been implemented a moratorium on new fracing permits.  Also, Massachusetts is currently considering a bill that would make it the second state to implement a full ban on hydraulic fracturing. Vermont was the first state to ban fracing. 

One of the states most impacted by oil and gas litigation is Colorado.  Colorado has a long history of drilling, both vertically and horizontally and has experienced years of litigation in oil and gas exploration.  Five Colorado cities have prohibited fracing, but all face legal challenges, not just from industry but from the administration of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has begun lawsuits against all Colorado cities with fracing bans.  Many states are imposing moratoriums until further studies are completed over the safety of fracing.  Pennsylvania has also had several municipalities propose bills that would place a moratorium on fracing.  The moratoriums that are being implemented are often open-ended, which could effectively act as a ban of fracing in those jurisdictions.  The resolution of the legal battles in Colorado could have a great impact on the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays, as a precedent will be set for local communities to legally restrict or prohibit hydraulic fracturing in their towns. 

The legal environment of the industry is constantly changing, and there are strong opinions both for and against hydraulic fracturing.  The impact of the ongoing legal battles will shape the future of the energy industry and America’s quest for energy independence.

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