The process of hydraulic fracturing (also known simply as “fracking”) continues to divide the public and public policymakers, even as resulting lower natural gas prices have encouraged industries, including many power plants, to convert from coal-fired boilers as one means as coping with coming limitations on the emissions of carbon monoxide.

Local concerns about fracking activity have their origin in concern about pollution of drinking water sources. Those concerns have now expanded to include concerns about the management of fracking fluid wastes and the possibility that the activity may prompt localized seismic activity. For example, scientists at the Universities of Miami and Ohio have asserted that fracking activity prompted localized earthquakes in a part of the state. (Ohio earthquakes).

A number of anti-fracking proposals were on state and local ballots this past year and many of them were adopted. (Local measures). And New York recently imposed a fracking ban by executive action, prompting suggestions that there may be similar actions in other states. (National Geographic).

At least part of the Obama Administration is arguing against such localized bans. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel recently criticized the bans stating that they prompt confusion for the oil and natural gas industries. (The Hill). She acknowledged the need for more scientific research, but in the interim, will rely on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey to help guide her decisions about allowing fracking on federal lands. Ultimately, she believes it would be better to have uniform regulations for the activity. The Administration is, in fact, pursuing a set of regulations that would direct fracking activities on federal lands, but these have been pending for almost a year. (White House reviewing fracking rules). And EPA initiated a scientific study of fracking in 2011 with the intention of providing a final report last year. That report is yet to be issued. (EPA Fracking Study)

If broader regulation covering activities in the industry, both on federal lands and non-federal lands, is coming, the Administration may need to move promptly if it hopes to get out ahead of local action.