April 28, 2021

Policies Designed to Protect Public Health from Fracking may be Ineffective in Practice

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Frequent use of exemptions may undermine public health protections of oil and gas setback policies, according to a new study led by researchers at the research institute PSE Healthy Energy, Harvard University, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Solutions at Duke University. The study, published April 28 in Energy Policy, is the first to assess the effectiveness of distance-based setback regulations for unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) or "fracking."

Previous studies have associated adverse health impacts with residents’ proximity to UNGD wells, including birth defects, premature births, asthma, migraines, and fatigue. To assess the effectiveness of setbacks in protecting public health, the study focused on Pennsylvania’s Act 13—a 2012 statewide law restricting new unconventional wells within 500 feet of non-industrial buildings.