Explosive Growth of Fracking Puts Pressure on Communities – How Can Local Governments Respond?

Published Jun 12, 2015

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2015)—Unconventional oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing is radically changing communities across the country. Fracking is growing faster than our understanding of its effects, but there are ways for communities to get a handle on the impacts, say experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Consensus-Building Institute (CBI).

A new report from UCS and CBI, Managing the Risks of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development, takes a close look at how state and local governments are dealing with the surge of fracking.

“Although fracking comes with benefits, there are real costs, too, and we can’t rush ahead without taking those into account,” said Pallavi Phartiyal, a senior analyst at UCS who co-authored the report. “Local governments are on the front lines, and they own it to the people they represent to be as transparent as possible in their decision-making and to prioritize the needs of the community.”

The new report details regulatory and fiscal tools that governments have used to manage the impacts of fracking, as well as non-regulatory approaches that gather information and engage communities and oil and gas industry interests alike. Examples from states across the country such as Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas help illustrate different local approaches to fracking.

The rapidly-advancing technology of oil and gas development is putting these issues in front of more communities than ever. Air quality, water quality and quantity, public safety, and socioeconomic impacts on the emergency and public services and local infrastructure are challenges that can come from fracking, even as it may bring economic benefits to some.

“Every community is going to deal with energy development differently, and the level of regulatory authority that local governments can exercise can vary greatly from one state to the other, but they all need to have an open conversation about what it entails,” says Pat Field, managing director of CBI and a report co-author. “Local governments need to offer reliable science-based information to help their constituents understand what’s at stake.. We hope this report informs local officials of the many options that they can use to manage the impacts in their communities."