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Adequacy of Current State Setbacks for Directional HVHF

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

Marsha Haley, Michael McCawley, Anne C. Epstein, Bob Arrington, and Elizabeth Ferrell Bjerke

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.

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

Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510547
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