Flaws in a study of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water supplies being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be addressed in order for the agency’s final report to be credible, according to a review of the study released Tuesday by the Battelle Memorial Institute.
According to Battelle’s 166-page review, which was requested by America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), EPA’s Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources is weakened by a lack of collaboration and transparency.
“Given industry’s extensive experience with production of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs, its unique expertise in the process of hydraulic fracturing and associated technologies, and its wealth of relevant data and information available to inform this effort, it is a weakness of the study plan, and its implementation, that significant industry collaboration is not envisioned,” said the report.
Battelle also found “deficiencies in the rigor, funding, focus and stakeholder inclusiveness of EPA’s plan,” API upstream senior policy adviser Stephanie Meadows said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning.
“It is our conclusion that EPA’s actual scope and design of the study plan reaches beyond [a Congressional request to study] ‘the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water,'” said Battelle Vice President Bernhard Metzger.
ANGA and API last year engaged Battelle in anticipation of working with EPA on its study, but “EPA declined to engage in a collaborative effort,” Meadows said. “Because we had concerns with the direction EPA seemed to be going and raised them with the agency without getting a constructive response, we retained Battelle to do a separate study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, the first part of which was a critical review of EPA’s own final study plan.”
ANGA and API said they continue to offer the expertise of their members to the EPA. “We are not calling on EPA to stop their study,” Meadows said. “We are calling on them to do it right.”
In March 2010 the EPA announced plans to study the potential risks of fracking on water quality and public health. Environmentalists and some lawmakers contend that the chemicals used in fracking are a health risk, but producers said they were confident that the study — if conducted objectively — would show fracking to be safe (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010).
Last year EPA submitted a 140-page draft plan to the agency’s Science Advisory Board to study potential drinking water contamination associated with chemicals and fluids used in fracking (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22, 2011; Feb. 9, 2011). The final draft of the EPA’s study plan “looks at the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing, from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal,” EPA said last year (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4, 2011).
EPA has said it expects to deliver an interim report to Congress in December and an additional report completed by 2014.
The Battelle report was delivered to EPA on Monday, the industry groups said.
“We continue to believe a well designed, scientifically rigorous study of hydraulic fracturing will confirm our industry’s ongoing commitment to safe and responsible development, and that communities do not have to trade the protection of the environment for the many economic, energy security and clean air benefits that natural gas offers,” said Amy Farrell, ANGA vice president of regulatory affairs. “We hope the agency will not only consider additional efforts to collaborate with industry and other key stakeholders moving forward, but that they will carefully review the report and consider the critiques and recommendations for improvement and make adjustments as appropriate.”
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