A study of the biggest risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking), as well as recommended policies to reduce those risks, has been launched by an arm of the nonpartisan Resources for the Future (RFF).

The independent RFF is devoted to research and publishing about critical issues in environmental and natural resource policy. RFF’s Center for Energy Economics and Policy (CEEP) was given a $1.2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to undertake the hydrofracking study.

“There are many competing voices and diverse views in the discussions of fracturing shale for gas, both within the general public and expert community,” said CEEP Director Alan Krupnick, who will lead the research team. “As the U.S. considers how to address concerns with shale gas exploration and production, it is crucial that our approach is grounded in a clear understanding of the risks involved, the drivers of risk, and the many different interests that must be balanced.”

According to Krupnick, the project would be the first independent, broad assessment of expert opinion and public perception of the risks associated with the shale gas development process. The research team plans to use that information to determine the most significant risks and the behaviors of industry and regulators that influence those risks. Matching these findings to an analysis of existing state and federal policies is expected to lead to recommendations for how and where to improve regulation and encourage industry action.

The project is to include five key components:

CEEP is assembling a team to include experts in water management, natural gas drilling, risk management, cost-benefit analysis, hydrology, engineering, geology and survey-based research. Over the next 18 months, the team plans to conduct stakeholder outreach, publish studies, hold briefings and provide updated findings at www.rff.org/ceep.