Shale Development (Hydraulic Fracturing)

Hydraulic fracturing (‘hydrofracking’ or ‘fracking’) is a technique which has held a long-standing role in drilling for oil and gas, but has only recently moved to center stage in energy production. RESOLVE’s energy and science programs are addressing many of the issues that have arisen from this new focus. Our goal is to find existing scientific information on the environmental and health risks that may emerge due to hydraulic fracturing, to help develop more information on the topic, and to provide strategic cooperative approaches to resolving disputes.

The Process

The hydraulic fracturing process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into deep rock formations at high pressure. This procedure creates fractures, releasing the natural gas trapped within the rocks. Recent technological advancements, including the advent of horizontal drilling, have made the development of vast deposits of shale gas economically viable, and new natural gas development on a massive scale has ensued, in the US and in many other countries.

Development of these reserves of domestic energy has the potential to produce more US gas and oil. Proponents state that it will reduce US dependence on foreign oil and gas, as well as create jobs. However, some groups and communities worry about the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the industrialization that accompanies natural gas development in what are often suburban and rural communities.

Hydraulic drilling operations typically use large quantities of fresh water, could potentially affect air and water quality, may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and have been linked to seismic events. In addition to these operational issues, there are many undisputed socioeconomic effects of rapid development in rural areas without pre-existing infrastructure (e.g. traffic, housing, public health services).


Community Health and Shale Development Guidebook

As fracking takes place in communities across the United States, local public health officials and other stakeholders are seeking guidance on the issues that could accompany development in their communities. In response to this information gap, a multi-stakeholder working group convened by RESOLVE has created the “Community Health and Shale Development Guidebook.” The Guidebook provides unbiased information on health issues throughout the lifecycle of the shale development process from initial assessment to project closure and offers options for responding to challenges, case studies of solutions that have worked and a set of in-depth resources from a variety of perspectives. To view the guidebook:

Joint Fact Finding for Shale Development

Making fact finding a collaborative effort will clarify strategic questions for industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders regarding the broad environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and the relationship between gas and renewables. Is there a significant net benefit in utilizing hydraulic fracturing to reducing emissions, by reducing reliance on coal, even if it also slows development of wind power? Does this analysis vary by region or country? The JFF will allow stakeholders to develop confidence in the independence and dependability of information so that decision makers in each sector can be informed by accepted data rather than speculation.

Project Contact

Dana Goodson - Project Director
(+1) 202 -965-6209