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Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510547

Adequacy of Current State Setbacks for Directional High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus, Barnett, and Niobrara Shale Plays

Marsha Haley,1 Michael McCawley,2 Anne C. Epstein,3 Bob Arrington,4 and Elizabeth Ferrell Bjerke5
Author Affiliations open
1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; 2School of Public Health, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; 3Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Lubbock, Texas, USA; 4Parachute, Colorado, USA; 5Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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  • Background: There is an increasing awareness of the multiple potential pathways leading to human health risks from hydraulic fracturing. Setback distances are a legislative method to mitigate potential risks.

    Objectives: We attempted to determine whether legal setback distances between well pad sites and the public are adequate in three shale plays.

    Methods: We reviewed geography, current statutes and regulations, evacuations, thermal modeling, air pollution studies, and vapor cloud modeling within the Marcellus, Barnett, and Niobrara Shale Plays.

    Discussion: The evidence suggests that presently utilized setbacks may leave the public vulnerable to explosions, radiant heat, toxic gas clouds, and air pollution from hydraulic fracturing activities.

    Conclusions: Our results suggest that setbacks may not be sufficient to reduce potential threats to human health in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. It is more likely that a combination of reasonable setbacks with controls for other sources of pollution associated with the process will be required.

  • This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

    Citation: Haley M, McCawley M, Epstein AC, Arrington B, Bjerke EF. Adequacy of Current State Setbacks for Directional High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus, Barnett, and Niobrara Shale Plays. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510547

    Received: 28 July 2015
    Accepted: 5 February 2016
    Advance Publication: 19 February 2016

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