Book Review: Shale Gas: A Practitioner’s Guide to Shale Gas and Other Unconventional Resources

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Shale Gas: A Practitioner’s Guide to Shale Gas and Other Unconventional Resources (Vivek Bakshi ed. 2012). Globe Business Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-905783-80-9; Hardcover $215.65, 172 pages.

One of the most contentious issues on the environmental legal scene today is the development and exploitation of unconventional shale deposits for the extraction of natural gas.  Here, an old technology, hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) combined with horizontal well drilling, has been reinvented to allow access to the otherwise unobtainable but vast deposits of hydrocarbon-rich shale located all over the world.  For the uninitiated, although the specific logistics of hydrofracking vary depending on the composition and environmental conditions of a given shale deposit, hydrofracking generally involves the injection of fluids into drilled or fractured wells which are pumped underground at high pressures in order to force out natural gas.  However, as hydrofracking has exploded onto the public stage, few if any resources have been available to guide practitioners through the basics of the regulatory, environmental, and litigious aspects of shale gas development—until now.  Despite some shortcomings, Shale Gas: A Practitioner’s Guide to Shale Gas and Other Unconventional Resources, ably fills this gap and should be considered an important purchase for any law library as it represents one of the first practitioner-oriented treatises on the subject.

As an environmental law librarian in a hydrofracking hot spot, I have had to develop an intimate knowledge of this issue the hard way.  In that respect, Shale Gas presents an excellent starting point for both the novice and the experienced practitioner as focused on the United States (U.S.), Canada, Australia, and to a lesser extent Europe.  This handbook, authored almost exclusively by practicing lawyers, is organized into chapters that generally follow the different stages of attorney involvement including: the drafting of gas sales agreements, an explanation of the physical process, a review of potential disputes and causes of action, water and air pollution concerns, joint ventures, and finally a discussion of the impact and role of public opinion. Chapters on unconventional shale gas development in Australia, world natural gas price trends, and liquid natural gas extraction in North America are also provided.  

On the negative side, the work suffers from its dearth of footnotes and lack of bibliography and index.  In addition, despite its global focus, little mention is made of such important emerging shale gas markets as China, Brazil, and South Africa.  Furthermore, the article on public opinion employs the European Union as a case study, where a U.S. example might have been more illustrative based on the diametric nature of the current debate.  Finally, the biggest glaring oversight may be the lack of a chapter dedicated to state and local shale gas issues—lacking an overarching federal mandate, shale gas law (at least in the U.S.) is emerging as a hodgepodge patchwork of mixed regulatory regimes. In this respect, a second edition of the work is already eagerly anticipated.

Taryn L. Rucinski is an Environmental Law Librarian and Adjunct Professor at Pace Law School.

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