Unlike the regulation of other heavy industries, fracking—in which companies create cracks in shale rock to extract gas, oil, or other substances—has been exempted from federal reach, leaving regulation to the states, which appear vulnerable to capture by energy interests. As fracking has expanded, become more complex, and generated considerable controversy, some states have sought to quash local government efforts to impose more stringent regulations. Citizens and activists have sought redress through the courts, and some states are fighting over the transport of waste disposal across state lines. The story is one of fractured, fragmented federalism that illustrates the key role played by regulated interests that prefer state to federal regulation, resulting in a variable, often weak state regulatory regime.

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