News Release

September 28, 2016

For Immediate Release
Contact: Whitney Doll, Senior Communications Specialist, 703-861-1351

New Report Examines Potential Environmental Impacts of Fracking in Pennsylvania

Arlington, VA — CNA today released a report examining a broad range of environmental impacts if the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania were to be fully developed with hydraulic fracturing.

Since 2007, Pennsylvania has become a major natural gas producing hub due to technology advances that have facilitated gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale play. The gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale could support significantly more gas development given current technical capabilities. The CNA study uses geospatial analysis and a range of publicly available official data sources to project the number and locations of wells that could be developed and then quantify and map associated potential environmental impacts to Pennsylvania’s land, forests, water, air and population.

"Much of the debate around gas development in Pennsylvania concerns how to address the environmental and health impacts that are occurring now. You see a lot of attention given to managing high-visibility risks like well casing failures, wastewater spills and treatment and methane emissions," said Lars Hanson, research analyst at CNA and the lead study author. "There are a lot of other impacts associated with gas development activities that don’t grab headlines but might add up over time as the shale is built out. In this study, we addressed the long-range picture to get a better idea of the potential magnitudes of these impacts if the Marcellus is fully developed, and importantly, used mapping to understand their spatial context."

This report, an independent research effort developed by staff at CNA’s Institute for Public Research and funded by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, examines a sampling of impacts including land use and land cover, forest fragmentation, population, air emissions, water use and wastewater generation. Key state-level findings include:

  • Over a 30-year period, Pennsylvania could see the development of 47,600 additional wells on 5,950 well pads.
  • Population within one-half mile of a Marcellus well pad could increase from 100,000 currently to 639,000, and population within one mile from 311,000 to 1.8 million.
  • The construction of natural gas infrastructure necessary to support projected well development could cover over 94,000 acres of land.
  • 28,000 acres of forest could be cleared, of which over 12,000 acres is core forest. An additional 88,000 acres of core forest could be fragmented by road and pipeline development and converted to edge forest.
  • When the play nears full development, annual average air emissions could reach 37,000 tons per year for nitrogen oxides, 22,500 tons per year for volatile organic compounds, and 388,000 tons per year for methane.
  • The hydraulic fracturing process could use over 242 billion gallons of water over 30 years. Of this, roughly 200 billion gallons of fresh surface water would be withdrawn to support the development, and 167 billion gallons would not rejoin the hydrologic cycle after hydraulic fracturing injection. In addition, 84 billion gallons of wastewater would be generated, and require treatment or disposal.

To download the report and the map sets accompanying it, visit

CNA is a nonprofit research and analysis organization dedicated to developing actionable solutions to complex problems of national importance. With nearly 700 scientists, analysts and professional staff, CNA takes a real-world approach to gathering data. Its one-of-a-kind field program places analysts on carriers and military bases, in squad rooms and classrooms, and working side-by-side with a wide array of government decision-makers around the world. In addition to defense-related matters for the U.S. Department of the Navy, CNA’s research portfolio includes criminal justice, homeland security, energy security, water resources, enterprise systems and data analysis, and education.

Note to writers and editors: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as "CNA, a research organization in Arlington, VA."


Elizabeth Cutler
Sr Communications Specialist

John Stimpson
Communications Associate