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Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracking): Overview

A legal resource guide for information relating to hydrofracking including primary and secondary source materials, quick links, and database resources.

Hydraulic Fracturing

"[P]ronounced and sometimes spelled 'fracking'" (also hydro-fracing, hydrofracturing, and hydro fracking) [1] this controversial mining technique which has been in common use since the late 1940's, [2] allows developers in the natural gas and oil industry to exploit the otherwise unattainable but vast deposits of hydrocarbon-rich shale that are located throughout the U.S. and all over the world.[3]  Although the specific processes for hydrofracking vary depending on the composition of the shale and the environmental conditions of the specific deposit, fracking generally involves the injection of "fluids [into drilled or fractured wells which] are pumped at high pressure underground to force out oil or natural gas."[4]

[1] For the purposes of this guide the term “hydrofracking” or “fracking” will be used throughout.
[2] Keith B. Hall, Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, 31 Westlaw J. Envtl. 1 (2011).
[3] Richard A. Kerr, Natural Gas from Shale Bursts Onto the Scene, 328 Sci 1624, 1625 (2010) (for a map of shale gas basin deposits in the US consult page 1625).
[4] Hannah Wiseman, Untested Waters: The Rise of Hydraulic Fracturing in Oil and Gas Production and the Need to Revisit Regulation, 20 Fordham Envtl. L. Rev. 115, 120 (2009).

Shale Deposits in the United States

Image result for us shale plays

For additional maps please see the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) website.

EPA Fracking Study

Hydraulic Fracturing Insider


Contact Information

This research guide was originally developed by Taryn Rucinski. It is currently maintained by Alyssa Rosen, Environmental Law Librarian.