Is hydraulic fracturing safe?

Commonly referred to as “fracking,” hydraulic fracturing is a tightly-regulated well completion technology has been used more than 1.2 million times in the United States over the past 60 years. And here in Pennsylvania, we have some of the strongest regulations in place to ensure that fracturing is done in a way that protects our environment. Key environmental regulatory officials, charged with ensuring oil and natural gas development is done safely, have spoken clearly about hydraulic fracturing’s record of safety.

Appearing before a congressional committee in November of 2011, Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) secretary Michael Krancer said this about hydraulic fracturing:

“Hydraulic fracturing of wells is not new in Pennsylvania; it has been going on here since about the 1950s and has been standard practice since about the 1980s. In 2010, the head of EPA’s drinking water program, Steve Heare, said that despite claims by environmental organizations, he had not seen any documented cases that the hydro-fracing process was contaminating water supplies. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the exact same thing in her May 24 testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In a January 2010 article in Platts Gas Daily, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said that hydraulic fracturing is safe and lawmakers should be cautious in  their efforts to restrict it. My predecessor, former DEP Sec. John Hanger, told Reuters in October 2010 that “Pennsylvania has not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground have returned to contaminate groundwater.”

Likewise, in February 2012, U.S. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said: “I believe fracking as a technology is perfectly capable of being clean.” And in a New York Times opinion piece, then-Gov. Ed Rendell and PennFuture founder John Hanger who served as Pa. DEP secretary, wrote this: “Pennsylvania has the strongest enforcement program of any state with gas drilling. Period.”

This Pa. DEP fact sheet provides a detailed overview of the fracturing process and the safeguards in place to ensure it’s done in a way that protects our environment.