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FRACKING: Global Timeline of Bans and Moratoria

As a response to the proliferating evidence of the risks and harms of fracking—augmented by increasing concern about the many remaining uncertainties—various countries, states, and municipalities have instituted bans and moratoria.

 

France banned fracking in July 2011 and Bulgaria in January 2012. The state of Vermont banned fracking in May 2012.

 

Following New York’s ban in December 2014, Scotland became the first country in Great Britain to impose a formal moratorium on fracking in January 2015, after an expert panel concluded that more study of fracking’s risks was needed.  (In 2016, as part of the ongoing moratorium process, the government of Scotland released a series of reports that reconfirmed the evidence for potential contamination of air and water, threats to worker health from silica dust exposure, and risks to the health of nearby residents. It further noted that the pursuit of unconventional oil and gas extraction would make more difficult Scotland’s goal of meeting its climate targets on greenhouse gas emissions.11, 12)

 

Scotland’s moratorium became an effective ban when it was extended “indefinitely” in October 2017.

 

In February 2015 the government of Wales declared a moratorium on fracking “until it is proven safe.” The Canadian province of New Brunswick declared a moratorium for similar reasons in March 2015.

  1. In July 2015, the Dutch government banned all shale gas fracking until 2020 on the grounds that “research shows that there is uncertainty” about impacts.
  2. In September 2015, Northern Ireland and the Spanish region of Castile La Mancha both effectively banned fracking via strategic planning policies.
  3. In a December 2015 vote in favor of a report, Towards a European Energy Union, the plenary of the European Parliament affirmed the incompatibility of shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing with the European Union’s commitment to decarbonization, and it acknowledged public concerns about the environmental and health impacts of fracking. While falling short of an outright EU-wide moratorium on fracking, the report states that “it is questionable whether hydraulic fracturing can be a viable technology in the European Union.”13
  4. In Florida, 85 municipalities have either banned fracking outright or passed resolutions opposing it. In 2016, a bill that would have pre-empted local bans and opened the state to fracking was voted down in a Florida legislative committee.
  5. Also, in 2016, New Brunswick extended its moratorium on fracking “indefinitely,” citing unresolved problems with the disposal of fracking wastewater, and in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where a moratorium had been in place since 2013, a government-appointed panel recommended that fracking remain “paused,” citing data gaps and unresolved questions about the underlying geology.
  6. In June 2016, Germany adopted a moratorium on “unconventional fracking” until 2021 but will permit exploratory drilling research projects.
  7. Also in 2016, California’s Butte and Alameda counties banned fracking, along with Monterey County, which also banned all new oil drilling. (Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Mendocino counties banned fracking in 2014.)
  8. In August 2016, the Australian state of Victoria declared a permanent ban on fracking on the grounds that the risks outweighed any potential benefits.
  9. In September 2016, a California judge, arguing that the agency had failed to consider the dangers of fracking, struck down a bid by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to open one million acres of public land in central California to oil drilling.
  10. In November 2016, Winona County, Minnesota banned the mining of frack sand, a decision that was upheld in district court in November 2017.
  11. In December 2016, the Portland, Oregon City Council approved zoning code changes that banned the construction of new fossil fuel projects, including terminals for storing and transporting natural gas, and also prohibited the expansion of pre-existing facilities, including an LNG plant.
  12. Many more bans, moratoria, and restrictions were enacted or proposed in 2017. In April 2017, Maryland became the third U.S. state to ban fracking when Governor Larry Hogan signed a ban bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the state legislature. Maryland’s ban followed a two-and-a-half-year statewide moratorium.
  13. Also in April, Entre Rio passed the first province-wide ban on fracking in Argentina. This ban follows 50 individual municipal bans and is intended to protect the Guarani Aquifer, which extends beneath parts of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
  14. In June 2017, France expanded its fracking ban to include a ban on all new oil and gas exploration.
  15. In July 2017, Ireland banned fracking when legislation was signed into law by the president. In October, as the moratorium on fracking in Scotland was extended indefinitely, Canada’s Prince Edward Island included a prohibition on fracking as part of its Water Act. According to campaigners, Albania also enacted a national ban on fracking in 2017 but these reports are, as of this writing, unconfirmed by official sources.
  16. In December 2017, Australia’s North Territory government decided to delay a decision on whether or not to extend or lift its own moratorium on fracking after a draft final report identified multiple risks to water, land, tourism, and indigenous culture.
  17. In early 2018, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC)—which consists of governors from the four states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—has released a proposed rule to ban fracking in the Delaware River watershed on the grounds that fracking exposes its waters to “significant, immediate, and long-term risks” and has set a schedule for public hearings and comments. As currently drafted, the rule has two loopholes: it does not ban the importation of wastewater from fracking operations located outside the basin, nor does it prohibit water withdrawals from the Delaware River and its tributaries for export and use in such operations.14, 15
    The longest free-flowing river in the Northeast, the Delaware River provides drinking water to more than 15 million people (approximately 5 percent of the U.S population). About one-third of the river system flows through shale formations. A de facto moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin has been in place since 2010.

 

In Connecticut, where no fracking takes place, ordinances prohibiting the storage or use of imported fracking waste have been passed by 34 municipalities, with more public hearings scheduled for early 2018. Vermont has banned the importation of fracking waste into the state.

In sum, as evidence continues to mount of its environmental and public health costs, legislative and governmental bodies are increasingly apprehensive about the risks and harms of fracking. Nevertheless, in several notable cases, hard-won bans have been overturned.

In May 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down local fracking bans in the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont.

In June 2015, citing concerns about noise impacts and the industrialization of rural landscape, the county of Lancashire in northwest England halted plans for a major British fracking operation; years previously, two wells—the first and only pair ever drilled in Lancashire—had suffered well integrity failures and caused earthquakes.

However, in 2016, the national government overturned Lancashire’s ban, and drilling began in October 2017 despite widespread, ongoing public opposition. Similarly, a fracking ban passed by the city of Denton, Texas in November 2014 was invalidated in June 2015 by a state law, pushed by the oil and gas industry, that prohibits Texas municipalities from passing local bans.

 

REFERENCES:

8 PSE Healthy Energy (2016, April 20). The science on shale gas development infographic. Retrieved from http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/data/PSE_FrackingStudy_Summary_Infographic_4-20-2016_00.jpg

9 PSE Healthy Energy. Repository for Oil and Gas Research (ROGER). https://www.psehealthyenergy.org/our-work/shale-gas-research-library/

10 Hays, J., & Shonkoff, S. B. C. (2016). Toward an understanding of the environmental and public health impacts of shale gas development: An analysis of the peer-reviewed scientific literature, 2009-2015. PLOS One, 11(4), e0154164. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154164

11 Health Protection Scotland. (2016, November). A health impact assessment of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland, vol. 1. Retrieved from http://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/resourcedocument.aspx?resourceid=3102

12 Committee on Climate Change. (2016, August). Scottish unconventional oil and gas: Compatibility with Scottish greenhouse gas emissions targets. Retrieved from http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00509324.pdf

13 Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. (2015, November 24). Report on Towards a European Energy Union, A8-0341/2015. Retrieved from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A8-2015-0341+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

14 Delaware River Basin Commission. (2017, November 30). Proposed new 18 CFR part 440—hydraulic fracturing in shale formations. Retrieved from http://www.nj.gov/drbc/library/documents/HydraulicFracturing/18CFR440_HydraulicFracturing_draft-for-comment_113017.pdf

15 Hurdle, J. (2017, November 30). Fracking ban proposed for Delaware River basin; ‘significant risks’ cited. StateImpact Pennsylvania. Retrieved from https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2017/11/30/fracking-ban-proposed-for-delaware-river-basin-significant-risks-cited/

 

SOURCE: Concerned Health Professionals of New York & Physicians for Social Responsibility. (2018, March). Compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction) (5th ed.). http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

 

 

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