Breaking down the new federal regulations on fracking

    Last week, the Obama Administration announced major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

    Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter, said the new rules are aimed at protecting water.

    “That’s the biggest fear with fracking, is contamination of drinking water,” she said.

    Fracking is a technique that uses water to extract natural gas from rocks deep beneath the ground. The technique has been highly criticized because of its potential pollution, health and safety risks.

    One of the new rules bans open wastewater storage. That water, which could contain toxins, chemicals and even radioactive material, will have to be stored in closed tanks. Another rule targets wells because of the chemicals that get shot down them. Managing well construction will prevent frack water from leaking into ground water. Companies will also have to start posting the chemicals used in frack water on a publicly accessible website 30 days after they frack a well.

    These new regulations don’t apply to every fracked piece of land, however. They only apply to federal and tribal Native American lands. Phillips said this isn’t very beneficial because that kind of land only accounts for a small source of fracking.

    “Only 25 percent of oil production comes from federal lands in the United States and about 17 percent of gas production,” she said.

    There has been a negative response toward these rules from industries and environmentalists alike.

    “Industry says we don’t want federal government regulating this, the states can do it,” Phillips said. “On the other side, [environmentalists] said this didn’t go far enough. They really wanted the federal government to give the states a gold standard for how to regulate fracking.”

    The battle may continue more on a state-by-state level where environmentalists push for tougher regulations.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal