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Despite its economic appeal, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has sparked bitter controversy. Allegations of toxic fracking fluids and fracking-induced droughts have made fracking a major public health and environmental concern in the United States. Fracking is dependent on local conditions to a large degree; therefore, we focus on Gonzales County, located within Texas’ Eagle Ford shale region, in order to address county-specific concerns. However, our findings can be applied to help create sustainable practices for fracking in any context. Unfortunately, regulations are limited due to the 2005 Energy Policy Act that prevents federal agencies, including the EPA, from regulating fracking. In order to minimize the external costs of fracking, our research indicates that effective regulations need to be enacted to protect people and the environment from major fracking concerns including overdrawn water sources, wastewater contamination, and chemical releases. We propose that implementing effective regulation will make fracking safer and more profitable for all stakeholders in the long run. Using the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we provide a comparison model that is analogous to the current Railroad Commission of Texas’ regulations on fracking. Furthermore, we outline a case study on post-fracking water to demonstrate how a thorough analysis of current practices can create robust recommendations for safer and sustainable fracking practices in the Eagle Ford shale. Finally, our recommendations for fracking in Gonzales County provide possible solutions to many of the concerns associated with fracking.


Capstone, GEOS/ENVI 4301-01: Land Use, Geology, and the Environment