energy Program

Hydraulic Fracturing - Key Resources and Reports

Caption U.S. Geological Survey/Photo by Bill Cunningham

A drill rig at a drill pad in the Fayetteville Shale gas play. The drill rig is used to drill the vertical and directional wells prior to the hydraulic fracturing process.

The widespread use of high-volume, slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a relatively new technological process for oil and gas extraction. More research and long-term assessment is needed to more fully understand the potential impacts that could occur from the multiple steps involved in the entire oil and gas extraction life cycle, of which fracking is one prominent step. This list of resources is not intended to be exhaustive and will be updated on occasion.

Background Information and Reports

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources" (2015 ) is the most comprehensive study to date on fracking. While the EPA claimed that fracking does not necessarily lead to "widespread, systemic" drinking water pollution, they did for the first time confirm that groundwater has been polluted at points along the fracking "water cycle." The report also includes a major caveat that "[t]here is a high degree of uncertainty about whether the relatively few instances of impacts noted in this report are the result of a rarity of effects or a lack of data" (p. 10-17). Go here for EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing page.

Cornell University's New York State Water Resources Institute has compiled a "Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Gas Well Drilling Reference List" containing numerous primary and authoritative resources on many aspects of the fracking process. Additionally, here is the World Resource Institute's Groundwater and Shale Gas Development report and related material.

Robert Howarth, Cornell University Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, et al. produced the provocative "Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations" that estimates the high leakage rate of natural gas and its principle component, the potent greenhouse gas, methane, from shale-gas wells.

Duke University's Stephen Osborn et al., released a study entitled, "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing," based on sampling, which establishes an increased likelihood of methane contamination in shallow drinking water wells based on proximity to natural gas wells with a possible connection between deep-level brines and shallow aquifers, although neither deep saline brine nor fracking fluid were detected. The 2011 study has been bolstered by a 2013 follow-up Duke study.

The International Energy Agency's (IEA) "Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas" report takes a global perspective on the ramp up of natural gas production's harms and benefits, with an emphasis on gas development from fracking and unconventional sources. Find more Golden Rules' resources and multimedia.

Elisabeth Radow, attorney and real estate expert, wrote the article, "Homeowners and Gas Drilling Leases: Boon or Bust?" in the New York State Bar Association Journal's November/December 2011 edition, which questions whether property owners who sign gas and oil leases might experience greater risk and find their property values lowered, let alone for their neighbors and communities. 

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) "Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States" provides technical details and insight on fracking, with a specific focus on water resource impacts. In 2013, the DOE released the "Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: An Update" that provides a "status of various shale plays that have undergone significant development over the past four years." The DOE also offers a complete list of "Natural Gas Resource Research Project Summaries," with a focus on fracking.

The U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) "Water-Quality Topics: Hydraulic Fracturing" focuses on USGS activities to study and monitor potential impacts from oil and gas fracking on water quality. For USGS oil and gas resource assessments and multimedia displays, see their "Energy Resources Program: Hydraulic Fracturing" page.

study by a Southern Methodist University seismology team identified natural gas wastewater disposed of in injection wells as the likely cause of earthquakes around Azle, Texas. The USGS has also published peer-reviewed reports and other research materials that identify and examine earthquakes triggred by wastewater injection on their Induced Earthquakes page.

Investigative Reporting and Data Sharing

The FracTracker Alliance ( is a nonprofit organization that, in partnership with other groups, collects oil and gas industry data and shares it with the general public through mapping tools, visualizations and the interpretation of data. Use the FracMapper to find unconventional oil and gas wells near you.

The New York Times' "Drilling Down" series examines the risks of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and the attempt to regulate it, particularly in the state of Pennsylvania.

ProPublica's series, "Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat," was one of the first major efforts to follow the environmental consequences of fracking in the United States.

The Shale Gas Review is the blog of Tom Wilber, long-time journalist and author, who concentrates his efforts on the nitty gritty of shale-gas development in the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays. Wilber's well-received book on fracking is entitled, Under the Surface.

SkyTruth ( is a nonprofit organization that uses remote sensing and digital mapping to "create stunning images that expose the landscape disruption and habitat degradation caused by mining, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, fishing and other human activities."

State Impact Pennsylvania is a NPR member station reporting project, which has conducted extensive investigation into fracking-related issues in the Marcellus Shale region including excellent coverage of the relatively unpublicized - yet extremely important - topic of toxic fracking wastewater handling and deep injection well disposal.

Environmental and Public Health Organizations

Earthworks: an organization that seeks to protect communities and the environment from mining and energy development

Food and Water Watch: a consumer and environmental advocate organization working against fracking

Mothers for Sustainable Energy: a coalition of mothers formed to counter fossil fuel extraction and support renewable energy

Natural Resource Defense Council: NRDC is one of the biggest U.S. environmental action groups working on the issue

New Yorkers Against Fracking: is a coalition of mainly New York-based organizations calling for a ban on fracking

Shale Bubble: an initiative of Post Carbon Institute that scrutinizes shale oil and gas extraction; includes comprehensive reports, analyses and multimedia projects

Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP): a nonprofit environmental health organization that provides support and resources to those in the vicinity of active shale extraction

Oil and Gas Industry

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA): promotes the greater use of natural gas in the U.S. and represents 26 major natural gas exploration and production companies

Energy In Depth: is a public outreach campaign for the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA)


Gasland and Gasland Part II: Josh Fox's documentaries that helped ignite the anti-fracking movement

Haynesville: a documentary that shows some downsides, but mainly benefits, brought by fracking

FrackNation: a documentary that strongly promotes fossil fuel extraction and fracking

Marcellus Shale Reality Tour: videos that show the on-the-ground downsides of fracking as produced by the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County, PA (10-part series)

Frackonomics: videos that question the supposed economics behind the growth in fracking (5-part series; for an Ecocentric Blog overview of the Frackonomics talk)