Resolution on Hydrofracking
Adopted by 2012 JCPA Plenum
The onset and evolution of hydrofracking processes have triggered rapid growth in natural-gas
and light crude oil extraction from deposits deep underground. The processes involve
horizontally drilling into shale rock, inserting steel and concrete reinforced wells, and injecting
water, sand and various chemicals deep underground to fracture the shale rock formations that
In the next few decades, energy companies are planning on drilling tens of thousands of
hydraulic-fracturing wells across the United States, with a heavy focus on large shale formations
in New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and in the West.
The extraction of vast amounts of natural gas from previously inaccessible underground deposits
has the potential to yield significant environmental, economic and national-security benefits.
Increased use of natural gas can reduce our dependence on coal, a dirtier fuel, while increased
domestic oil and natural gas liquid production from shale can reduce our dependence on
imported oil, which is a longstanding national-security objective. Furthermore, increasing the
energy supply through natural-gas drilling could potentially reduce energy costs and is creating
jobs - which could contribute, at least in a small way, to the alleviation of poverty.
However, we also have serious concerns about known and as yet unknown impacts. Here, we are
guided by the response of Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet, one of the greatest Talmudic authorities, who
wrote, “One is forbidden from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health.” (R,
Responsum 196, 14th Century).
Environmental and quality-of-life issues associated with the hydrofracking industry include the
potential for surface and ground water contamination, odors and air emissions, human and
environmental health effects, visual blight, noise pollution, earthquakes, depletion of water
sources, and road and other infrastructure deterioration. Chronic human, animal, and
environmental health issues have not been satisfactorily assessed, while the pace and spread of
drilling continues to accelerate.
In addition to the impacts of drilling, there are additional impacts from the ongoing construction
of an extensive network of pipelines to transport gas to processing facilities.
Although waste-water disposal practices are regulated at the federal level by the Clean Water
Act, the failure of gas companies to properly control or dispose of residual waste-water from
hydrofracking operations has been a frequent problem. Moreover, oil and gas drilling have been
granted an exemption from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs believes that:
Studies into hydrofracking impacts, including impacts on groundwater sources, surface water
sources, air quality, human and animal health, infrastructure and ecosystems, should be
continued and conducted with urgency by federal and state regulatory agencies. Appropriate
safeguards to protect public health and the environment should be adopted and enforced based on
the identification of impacts.
Impact fees and/or severance taxes should be sufficiently high to not only cover all of the costs
governments incur in regulating and accommodating extraction, but also to fund environmental
conservation and restoration programs and to fund research into the impacts of large-scale
Federal, state and local governments should seek an appropriate and coordinated distribution of
authority given their respective areas of responsibility, in a fashion that is focused on both the
benefits of development of these natural resources as in the national interest and on the need to
minimize negative environmental impact.
States should ensure that permitting processes require the collection and analysis of all
appropriate site data, including both baseline data on environmental conditions and ongoing
States should require safeguards for protecting underground water sources and adequate setbacks
to keep drilling sites a safe distance away from residences, schools, healthcare facilities, creeks,
lakes, rivers, and sources of public-drinking-water supplies, as well from other areas of high
Bonding requirements should be sufficiently high to cover future costs of well plugging,
abandonment, and site restoration.
State and federal regulatory authorities need an adequate legal framework, sufficient numbers of
adequately trained personnel and adequate funding to ensure appropriate regulatory oversight.
The adverse environmental and health impacts of hydrofracking should be evaluated in the
context of similar impacts associated with other sources of energy.
The drilling industry must identify all chemicals used in the fracking process, stop using any that
are banned by appropriate regulation, and should be strongly urged to find and use non-
hazardous substitutes for hazardous chemicals used in the fracking process. Drillers should be
encouraged to recycle and/or ensure proper disposal of all wastewater.
An increase in the natural-gas supply should not result in reduced investment in research and
development of alternative and renewable energy sources.
The community relations field should:
Support adequate federal and state regulation to protect groundwater sources, surface water
sources, air quality, human and animal health, infrastructure and ecosystems.
Support federal legislation to eliminate the natural-gas industry’s exemption from the Safe
Drinking Water Act.
Support legislation and regulation enabling the EPA to require full disclosure of the type and
amount of hydrofracking chemicals used at each well site.
Educate their communities about the extraction of natural gas and oil by hydrofracking and
about relevant Jewish perspectives on the issue.
Support preservation of unique and/or sensitive areas by putting them off limits to gas drilling to
be determined by an appropriate science-based process.