Trends in domestic regulation of shale development

As America’s recently reinvigorated oil and gas industry wrestles with the current drop in world oil prices, U.S. regulators remain hard at work, at both the federal and state levels. While this sharp decline in oil prices has introduced significant uncertainty, as to the scale of hydraulic fracturing operations in the short term—companies have slashed their 2015 capital spending plans, and the number of active drilling rigs continues to decline—the regulatory landscape surrounding hydraulic fracturing is clearer than it has ever been, and promises to become increasingly well-defined in 2015. Most states with shale activity now require some level of disclosure of the chemicals utilized in fracing fluids; have updated their well-cementing and construction rules; and have established drill site setback regulations, among other regulatory programs. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with efforts to require greenhouse gas reporting for certain additional hydraulic fracturing operations, and to regulate methane emissions associated with oil and gas production. Moreover, state regulations, increasingly, are addressing concerns related to induced seismicity, protection of groundwater, and waste disposal.

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