In the United States, noise impact from drilling can be regulated at a state level or effected through legislation at the City or municipality level through specific modification of general noise ordinances.
An example at the state level is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which was established as part of the Colorado department of natural resources. It aims to foster the responsible development of the state’s oil and natural gas resources. Their noise regulations stipulate maximum permissible levels depending on land use ranging from 55dB for residential/agricultural and rural to 80dB for industrial land use. Levels are more stringent during night time. During daytime, the regulations permit an exceedance of up to 10dB of these limits providing it does not last more than 15 minutes in any one hour period. In addition, periodic, impulsive or shrill noises have different level limits.
Local legislation typically requires city or parish noise ordinances to be modified. These address a wide range of community noise disturbances from amplified sound, power tools and setting off fireworks. Additional requirements to address noise from oil and gas wells may include:
- Limiting drilling operations to daylight hours during weekdays only
- Limiting heavy vehicle movement
- Ambient noise level test requiring continuous noise monitoring for 24 to 72 hours prior to works commencing to gain a valid background noise measurement
- Continuous monitoring during the drilling and fracking process at any nearby sensitive receptors such as schools, hospitals and churches
- If complaints are received, immediate continuous monitoring for 24 or 72 hour period to take place Within 24 hours of the notification of complaint
Violation of any of these requirements can trigger a fine of around US$2000 per day that the breach is present. In the UK, where shale gas drilling is still in the preliminary exploratory phase, noise regulations were imposed as part of planning permission for the exploration site in Balcombe in Sussex, granted in 2010. The restriction required that noise levels should not exceed 55dB for nearby residents between 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and not to exceed 42dB at all other times. A number of complaints about the noise were received and measurements taken by independent experts indicated that noise levels were nearing the prohibited levels, prompting calls for the site to be shut down. The exploration company immediately stopped work in order to fit sound baffles to reduce noise levels.