There is very little federal oversight of fracking, and because of this there has been a lot of pressure on states to develop their own policy. The Marcellus Shale region spans several states, and each one has different policies regarding fracking (Torrez et al. 2013). To fully understand the current management of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region, it is necessary to review Pennsylvania’s, New York’s, West Virginia’s, Virginia’s, Maryland’s, and Ohio’s state policies regarding hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, New York and Maryland have actually banned fracking, a significant success for the environment. Their policy is outlined below.
In 2008, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation started what would be a seven-year review of hydraulic fracturing within the state (Mailey 2014). Because the complete impacts of fracking were unconfirmed during this review period, the state put a moratorium on fracking until the review was completed. The final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) accompanied by a legally binding Finding Statement were released in 2015. The Department of Health also conducted their own Public Health Review which was completed in 2014, and together the results from these two studies led to the prohibition of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the state of New York in June 2015 (Mailey 2014; Concerns Over Hydraulic Fracking 2016).
Fracking was banned under the leadership of Governor Cuomo in 2015, but concerns and limitations arose long before that. Although the moratorium began in 2008, many concerned residents took action long before the results of the studies were released in order to protect their water supplies (Rosen 2016). In June 2014, the State Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that towns and municipalities could ban hydraulic fracturing at the local level under their zoning and land use laws. Two towns in particular (Dryden and Middlefield) were at the center of this ruling, having banned fracking through zoning amendments made in 2011 but being subsequently challenged by energy companies in search of prospective drilling sites (Taylor and Kaplan, 2014). The Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding environmental causes through science and policy, was a key advocate for the rural communities decision to enact policy addressing concerns over hydraulic fracturing’s impact on drinking water (About Us: NRDC 2016).
Maryland is the only other state in the Marcellus Shale region in addition to New York that has banned hydraulic fracturing within state lines. The bill was sponsored by Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery and calls for a two-year moratorium on fracking starting October 1st, 2015. It won a large majority vote in both the House and Senate and passed without the signature of Governor Larry Hogan (GAM-SB0409 Summary 2015). The goal of the moratorium is similar to the one put in place in New York several years ago: the Maryland Department of Environment (DOE) is reviewing the issue and potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing and has banned its practice until more is known about the industry’s impact on the state. The bill put into place also calls for legislation incorporating the latest research to be drafted in order to regulate hydraulic fracturing should the DOE study find that fracturing’s positive impact outweighs the negatives. This legislation needs to be drafted and publicized by October 1st, 2016, one year before the fracking moratorium becomes ineffective (Critical Infrastructure News 2016).
Torrez, M., Brady, W. J., Crannell, J. P., Smith, J., Belzil, D., & Knodel, M. S. (2013). Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation in the United States: The Laissez-Faire Approach of the Federal Government and Varying State Regulations. Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.