Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018


Natural gas extracted form shale reached record production totals in 2015 in the United States and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts natural gas production will continue to increase. Wastes from shale gas extraction can contain the radioactive isotopes radium-226 (Ra-226) and radium-228 (Ra-228), which decay further into radon (Rn). Exposure to radon, a form of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking. This article explores how states handle the disposal of technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM) and/or NORM waste from oil and gas operations to evaluate which states have developed the most protective practices when regulating NORM and TENORM waste from unconventional oil and gas operations to reduce adverse radiological health effects. The study concludes that although some states are regulating NORM and TENORM, other states may be inadequately addressing these wastes generated through oil and gas productions. Under-regulation is complicated by the fact that multiple agencies may have jurisdiction to handle wastes. Guidance, laws, and/or regulations may be needed to facilitate safety and health measures in states where inadequacies could potentially harm humans, animals, and the environment.


This work was originally published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.



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