Natural Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing: A Policymaker's Guide

Content Items

The Production Process 

  • Domestic Resource and Production Projections
  • Outlook for Natural Gas Prices
  • Economic Benefits and Implications
  • Public Health and the Environment

States Take Action: The Balancing Act

  • 2012 Legislative Trends

State Policy Actions

  • Increasing Transparency
  • Generating Revenue Through Severance Taxes and Impact Fees
  • Water Quality Protection
  • Monitoring to Improve Knowledge Base

Federal Action

NCSL Staff Contact

drilling rrig

Revised June 2012

By Jacquelyn Pless 

In recent years, technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have led to dramatic growth in natural gas development, with tremendous economic potential for state and local economies. Development currently is occurring in 32 states. Although hydraulic fracturing has been employed for decades, its use has rapidly increased in the past few years, and some states are taking steps to ensure that water and air quality are adequately protected during surface and subsurface natural gas development activities.

The recent increases in domestic natural gas supplies have been made possible by two technologies—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—that allow energy companies to tap natural gas supplies once thought to be inaccessible. Some forecast this increase in supply could sustain current U.S. consumption levels for another 90 years. Rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing in densely populated regions where the process is unfamiliar, however, has focused efforts on ensuring that the practice is well regulated, transparent, and protects public health and the environment.

Although a number of federal regulations govern the hydraulic fracturing process, states have regulatory primacy on this issue. Knowledge of local geology and environmental conditions allows state regulators and lawmakers to tailor regulations to meet their state’s unique needs, and states are continuing to develop and refine regulations, particularly to protect drinking water.

This report provides an introduction to the domestic natural gas picture, explores the motivation behind state legislative involvement in natural gas regulation, and summarizes state legislation that is being developed to ensure safe, responsible development of this resource.

Access the full 20-page report, revised June 2012, here.