The impact of shale gas on the US economy is hard to underestimate. The most important impact is that shale gas has pushed natural gas prices down and kept them there.
Incredibly in 2009 there were about half a million producing natural gas wells in the US. One of the factors that contributed to the rapid development of the shale gas industry in the US is a benign regulatory environment. In 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, among the provisions of which was the so-called "Halliburton loophole" that exempted hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from protections under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and CERCLA, which means that fracking is not regulated at the federal level.
The concerns about hydraulic fracturing’s potential impact on drinking water, human health and the environment have been serious enough that Congress has appropriated funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to undertake a major study of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on drinking water.
The EPA has selected seven case studies that it believes will provide information about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
Two of the case studies involve monitoring the fracking process at new sites;
- Haynesville Shale - DeSoto Parish, LA
- Marcellus Shale - Washington County, PA
The other five case studies will look at drinking water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing operations at sites where fracking has been underway for some time;
- Bakken Shale—Killdeer and Dunn Counties, ND
- Barnett Shale—Wise and Denton Counties, TX
- Marcellus Shale—Bradford and Susquehanna Counties, PA
- Marcellus Shale—Washington County, PA
- Raton Basin—Los Animas County, CO
The issues that the EPA will investigating in the case studies are
- Production well failure during hydraulic fracturing
- Suspected drinking water aquifer contamination
- Possible drinking water well contamination
- Spills and runoff leading to suspected drinking water well contamination
- Suspected surface water contamination from a spill of fracturing fluids
- Methane contamination of multiple drinking water wells
- Changes in drinking water quality, suspected contamination
- Stray gas in wells, surface spills
- Potential drinking water well contamination in an area with intense concentration of gas wells in shallow surficial aquifer