Marcellus Shale Drilling Exemptions

Dear News Media Professional,

water imageThis is the second in a series of articles for news media professionals. These are prepared by members of Marcellus Protest in Pittsburgh. Our purpose is to provide reporters with information concerning misleading statements by the gas drilling industry in order to assist reporters as they cover this critical issue. Pennsylvanians need more than Marcellus Shale Coalition industry commercials. We hope you will take a few minutes to review this information.

This article pertains to federal exemptions for the industry. The oil and gas industry makes sweeping statements about the large number of regulations governing hydrofracturing. When asked about federal exemptions, a frequent response is that they are “regulated by every single one of these (federal) laws under provisions relevant to its operations”. What they don’t say is that “relevant provisions” stipulate the exemptions.

Below is a brief summary (also attached) of federal legislation containing these exemptions. For more information please go to our web site at For questions about this specific paper, or to review our previous paper on misleading employment projections, please contact We hope you find this information useful in your work.

The summary below is based on one provided by Citizens Campaign for the Environment

Please note that The Energy Policy Act of 2005, containing the “Halliburton Loophole”, provided for exemptions in two other federal laws as well as The Safe Drinking Water Act. Additional exemptions are contained in four other federal laws.


1. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
This act regulates the entire life cycle of the process for underground injection of chemicals or waste into underground strata that might contain drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing operations are completely exempted from regulation under SDWA and Underground Injection Control of fracking fluid was defined to exempt it from EPA regulation of Underground Injection Control.

2. Clean Water Act (CWA)
This act establishes requirements for obtaining storm water discharge permits. It expanded the definition of oil and gas operations and activities to include the construction of the drill site, waste management pits, access roads, in-field treatment plants and transportation infrastructure. Eliminated “sediment” as a pollutant in managing storm water run-off from drill pad site and all oil and gas field construction activities and operations.

3. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This act weakened environmental review process by presuming that some oil and gas related activities should be analyzed and processed by the Interior and Agricultural Departments under categorical exclusions, which does not provide for a public comment period. This eliminates the need for the producer to prepare an environmental impact statement for exempted wells.


1. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund.

The list of covered hazardous substances section 101(14) excludes crude oil and petroleum. Natural gas, natural gas liquids, liquefied natural gas or synthetic gas usable for fuel are considered exempt from the definition of hazardous substances

2. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

This act pertains to disclosure and disposal of hazardous wastes. The Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1980 exempts oil field and gas drilling waste from Subchapter III of RCRA until the EPA could prove the wastes were a danger to human health and the environment. In 1988 EPA made a regulatory determination that oil field waste should be exempted because of adequate state and federal regulations. This includes produced waters, drilling fluids, and associated wastes. This act pertains to disclosure and disposal of hazardous wastes

3. Clean Air Act (CAA)

The CAA states that the oil and gas industry will not be aggregated together to determine if they are subject to Maximum Achievable Control Technology for each source. The exemption also extends to pipeline compressors and pump stations in
some instances. The oil and gas industry exemptions preclude regulation of wells and well fields either as small sources or under provisions for aggregating pollution sources. Hydrogen sulfide emissions, which occur commonly with gas drilling, were explicitly excluded from the list of hazardous chemicals subject to regulation.

4. Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-
Know Act (EPCRA)

The oil and gas industry is exempted from reporting under section 313 of EPCRA, even though it generally meets the requirements established for reporting.

A more detailed summary can be found at

For a more thorough discussion of these exemptions, please go to Earthworks: Oil and Gas Accountability Project at or Environmental Working Groups at .