Study of Pennsylvania Laws for the Protection of Groundwater from Health Hazards in Processes Related to Natural Gas Extraction

Principal Investigator(s)

Margaret Potter, JD, MS

Researcher(s)

  • Elizabeth F. Bjerke, JD

The technical advances that support natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale have opened a new chapter in the long history of fossil fuel extraction in this Commonwealth. Since the first successful oil well in 1859 near Titusville, a legal framework has developed to balance three critical interests:  economically valuable fuel production, irreplaceable environmental resources, and health and safety of populations. This study involves an analysis of whether the current legal framework protects groundwater aquifers and the public's health during all phases of hydraulic fracturing, as well as an indentification of the statutes and regulations pertaining to liability after the cessation of drilling. Based on analysis of the relevant bodies of law, the study will produce recommendations for Pennsylvania policymakers to ensure that groundwater and human health are protected.