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A Menu of State Policy Good Practices for Unconventional Natural Gas Development

Unconventional natural gas development has grown rapidly in the United States in recent years, driven largely by production from shale and tight sandstone formations. Although the pace of development will continue to ebb and flow with gas prices, production will almost certainly continue rising in the coming years.

The federal government regulates several aspects of oil and gas exploration and production through various statutory and regulatory schemes, but states have traditionally held primary regulatory responsibility for oil and gas development on private land. Many states are now modifying existing regulations or developing altogether new regulations in response to expanding unconventional oil and gas development. As they seek to do so, they often look to other states or organizations for policy insights.

This paper provides a menu of policy good practices that could be—and in some cases have been—adopted by state policymakers. The menu presents a range of options because conditions vary substantially by region in light of differences in climate, topography, and geology. Operators in dry areas of Texas, for example, might face a lower risk that surface waste pits will overflow due to a large precipitation event than operators in Pennsylvania.

The paper begins by defining policy good practices and the methodology used to identify them. It then describes the impacts that the practices are designed to address, and a range of available policy good practices that could further lessen upstream sector impacts.


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