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Law Experts Say Low Regulation Helps Fracking Technology Flourish

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:11 PM

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Columbia Law Professor Tom Merrill

The lack of federal regulation over oil and gas drilling has allowed innovations in technology to flourish in the United States. That’s according to a group of lawyers who convened at Case Western Reserve University today for a symposium on the law and policy of hydraulic fracturing.

Tom Merrill, a law professor at Columbia University, says the lack of cohesive, centralized federal rules for drilling has given oil and gas companies more freedom to experiment with new ways of extracting the resources. 

Merrill says since the expansion of horizontal hydraulic fracturing just boomed within the last ten years, states should continue to have the authority to regulate drilling until the federal government has a legitimate reason to intervene.

Merrill: “We don’t really know what’s best here.  We’re kind of learning by doing, stumbling along step by step.  And having states adopt slightly different approaches would be a good thing because we can sort of look to different states and see what’s working, what’s not working.  And eventually maybe we’ll have a uniform federal system, But, you know, maybe just the states will all gravitate toward a system that works best after looking at what other states have done.”

Merrill says since that the environmental risks are still largely unknown, states should require that drillers do baseline water testing before any fracking activity begins.

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Energy, Shale

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