CRS – Hydraulic Fracturing and the National Environmental Policy Act: Selected Issues

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on May 1, 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Selected Issues

  • Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to recover oil and natural gas from underground low permeability rock formations. This process involves pumping fluids under high pressure into the formations to crack them, releasing oil and gas into the well. The technique has been the subject of controversy due to some of its potential effects on the environment. This report provides an overview of two situations in which agencies are arguing that they do not need to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of hydraulic fracturing under NEPA. On March 21, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency reaffirmed its use of a categorical exclusion (CE) to exempt from further NEPA review the loans it makes for the purchase of single family homes on properties leased for drilling. The agency stated that, by itself, the existence of a drilling lease on a property is not an extraordinary circumstance that will prevent the agency from using a CE for a loan.”
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