Our conclusions mirror those of the previous publications published by the Fraser Institute. The scientific understanding of the mechanisms through which fracking may affect human welfare—specifically through impacts on drinking water and seismicity—has improved over time, and researchers may view these particular impacts as more serious now than was the case for the 2015 literature update. Even so, actual demonstrated harm to human welfare from fracking is still extremely modest, despite the enormous boom in fracking operations and the passage of many years to allow for an assessment of its effects.

In particular, the latest research shows that fracking actually reduces methane emissions once we adjust for the volume of natural gas produced, and especially if we consider the displacement of coal-fired power plants. The noise pollution from fracking on nearby residences has been documented, but appears to be comparable to the noise generated by a refrigerator.

More important, fracking’s potential impacts on drinking water and seismicity are not the result of fracking in itself, but rather to certain procedures in wastewater storage and disposal. Amending operations (such as the lining of storage pits, and the depths to which wastewater is injected) can reduce these risks. The potential strain on water availability in some local communities can be ameliorated through the introduction of flexible pricing for water, to avoid waste and ensure that the available water supply is channelled to its high-valued uses.