The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water resources will likely be finalized in 2016, the agency said Wednesday.
The EPA said its draft report on the potential effects of fracking on drinking water would be released for comment and peer review in late 2014, with the final report published in 2016, after review by a panel of independent scientists.
An interim update, the "Study of the Potential Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources," was published last year, but it was found to be heavily flawed in an independent study by the Battelle Memorial Institute. After that, the EPA's independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) formed a Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel of 31 independent experts to review the agency's draft when it is completed (see Shale Daily, March 27).
Environmentalists argue that fracking is harmful to air and water quality. Oil and natural gas producers said they were confident that the study, if conducted objectively, will show fracking to be environmentally safe. A 2004 EPA study concluded that fracking did not pose a risk to public drinking water.
The Energy Policy Act, which Congress passed in 2005, exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which seeks to protect the public water supply from contamination from toxic materials. The oil and gas industry could lose this loophole if the EPA study finds that fracking has negative consequences for public water supply.
As part of the review, information on the chemicals and practices used in fracking has been collected from nine service companies that fracked 24,925 wells between September 2009 and October 2010, according to the EPA.
Additional data on chemicals and water used for fracking are being pulled from more than 12,000 well-specific chemical disclosures in FracFocus.org, a national fracking chemical registry operated by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Via the FracFocus.org website, companies may voluntarily submit data on chemicals used to fracture natural gas and oil wells.
Moreover, the EPA said it is reviewing records on well construction.
Data on the causes and volumes of spills of fracking fluids and wastewater also are being collected and reviewed from state spill databases in Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, while similar information is being sought from the National Response Center national database of oil and chemical spills.