The development and production of oil and gas is regulated under a complex set of federal, state, provincial, and local laws that address every aspect of exploration and operation.
Examples of federal laws that govern environmental aspects of oil and gas development and production include:
- U.S.: The Clean Water Act (CWA) - Establishes the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into waters in the United States and quality standards for surface waters.
- U.S.: The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) - Ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water and protects drinking water and its sources; i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.
- U.S.: The Clean Air Act - Defines the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer.
- U.S.: Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 - Strengthened the U.S. EPA’s ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills.
- U.S.: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - Established a U.S. national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President's Council on Environmental Quality.
Every step of the process—from the permitting, well construction, casing, cementing, well plugging, and temporary abandonment—carefully considers the environment and water resources, and is conducted in accordance with federal, state, provincial, and local requirements.
Effective regulations that are regularly updated combined with engineering improvements within the oil and gas industry help ensure the integrity of the freshwater aquifers and the environment.