Back to Publications

A Short History of Federal Statutory and Regulatory Concerns Relating to Hydraulic Fracturing

Bruce M. Kramer, Hydraulic Fracturing: Core Issues and Trends (2011)

Well before the onset of the modern era of federal environmental law ushered in by the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act1 in 1969, President Calvin Coolidge created the Federal Oil Conservation Board.2 The OCB consisted of the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior and Commerce. Henry L. Doherty, an independent oil and gas executive, was undoubtedly a major stimulus in the creation of the OCB.3 In 1926, the OCB held hearings on the need for a federal statutory unitization law in order to prevent the very wasteful practices that Mr. Doherty asserted were a threat to national security. At the hearings the American Petroleum Institute hired Justice Charles Evans Hughes to argue against a federal role in oil and gas development.4 The industry was successful in limiting future OCB activities to studies and hearings and when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933 he did not reappoint members of his Cabinet to the Board.5 The OCB studies may have been instrumental in supporting the inclusion of voluntary unitization provisions in both the temporary Mineral Leasing Act of 19306 and the Mineral Leasing Act of 19317 and the compulsory unitization provisions passed in 1935.8 President Roosevelt, as part of his New Deal legislation, created a Petroleum Code that was designed to deal with post-production issues consistent with the regulatory approach taken unde