The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the deadline from April 30 until Nov. 15 for the public to submit data and scientific literature as part of the agency's study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water sources.
"The EPA will consider all submissions but will give preference to all peer-reviewed data and literature sources," the agency said in a notice in the Federal Register Tuesday.
The announcement of the deadline extension comes only days after House lawmakers blasted the EPA for flawed reports and studies on water quality associated with the development of oil and natural gas production (see Shale Daily, April 29). The lawmakers singled out the report that found that fracking of shale in Pavillion, WY, contributed to the contamination of the groundwater there (see Daily GPI, Jan. 12, 2012). The report was later retracted.
"In the days and weeks that followed this [Pavillion] announcement, the state of Wyoming, industry and other federal agencies exposed EPA's study as deeply flawed," said Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) during a joint hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees on Energy and Environment last week.
Congressmen also complained that there had been no apparent progress toward a coordinated federal agency approach to regulations for natural gas as called for in an executive order issued in April 2012. The EPA, Department of Energy and the Department of Interior signed a memorandum of understanding committing to develop an inter-agency plan with a draft of the plan due by October 2012 and a final plan by January 2013.
"Today, a year after the president's original announcement, the administration has not even released a draft version of its plan for comment," Lummis said. "I want the plan."
The EPA has been studying the potential risks of fracking since 2010. Environmentalists and some lawmakers contend that the chemicals used in fracking are a health risk, but producers say they are confident that the study, if conducted objectively, will show fracking to be safe (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010).
In late 2012, an interim update of the "Study of the Potential Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources" was released, which did not draw any final conclusions on any issues related to fracking. A final report from the EPA is due in 2014, but it is not known if the extension of the deadline for the public to submit comments will prompt a change in the date that the final report will be released.
In other action, the EPA is revising the deadline by which owners or operators of facilities subject to the petroleum and natural gas systems source category of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule must submit requests for use of best available monitoring methods (BAMM) to the agency.
Specifically, the agency is moving up the prior deadline of Sept. 30 to June 30, according to a final rule published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The amendment now reads: "For reporting years after 2012, a new request to use best available monitoring methods must be submitted by June 30 of the year prior to the reporting year for which use of [BAMM] is sought." The EPA said it is not proposing any other changes related to BAMM for oil and gas.
Affected facilities would be natural gas pipelines, local distribution companies, oil and gas drilling facilities and natural gas liquids extraction facilities, said the notice.
"The EPA continues to conclude that this [rule] amendment would have minimal adverse impact on owners or operators requesting to use [BAMM] in future years...The EPA believes that this amendment will provide additional certainty to reporters prior to the upcoming reporting year for which the use of [BAMM is] sought.
"Finalizing this amendment results in a more appropriate time frame for comprehensively reviewing and processing submitted requests and allowing the EPA to notify all owners and operators of final determinations in a timely manner."
The EPA in February published a direct final rule and a parallel proposal to amend the deadline from Sept. 30 to June. However, the rule was withdrawn in April due to "potentially adverse comments received" on the direct final rule.
The EPA said it is promulgating this rule amendment under its existing Clean Air Act (CAA) authority, which authorizes the agency administrator to require emissions sources, persons subject to the CAA, manufacturers of control or process equipment, or persons who the administrator believes may have necessary information to monitor and report emissions and provide any other information requested by the agency to carry out the CAA.