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Hydraulic fracturing and the need for risk assessment

Robert O. Schneider, PhD


This analysis examines the perceived lag in the policy process with respect to risk assessment and risk management in relationship to the development of new technologies that have the potential to create new threats to public health and safety. Hydraulic fracturing and the ongoing revolution in natural gas exploration make an excellent case study of the difficulties that inevitably arise, are difficult to resolve, and that expand threats to public health and safety when policy makers do not prioritize risk assessment and risk management until the negative impacts or potential harms of previous decisions are felt. The analysis begins with a description of the hydraulic fracturing revolution and a discussion of the potential risks associated with it. This will include some of the preliminary scientific work on the subject. The analysis will highlight concerns that timely assessment and management of these risks is often frustrated by the policy process itself. In essence, the conclusion reached is that significant improvements in the timely assessing and managing the risks associated with technological advances require policy makers to emulate the emergency management profession in elevating risk assessment and risk management to the level of a first priority in the policy process.


hydraulic fracturing, risk assessment, risk management

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