US EPA to study risks of hydraulic fracturing

Washington, DC�The US Environmental Protection Agency plans to study the environmental risks of using hydraulic fracturing to produce methane gas from coal beds. It will accept public comments on the study at an Aug. 24 meeting in Washington, DC.

EPA said it had not considered regulating hydraulic fracturing before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided a lawsuit on the issue. The court agreed with an environmental group that EPA must regulate coalbed fracturing in Alabama as part of the Safe Drinking Water Drinking Act�s underground injection provisions. As a result of that suit, Alabama modified its coalbed methane injection rules last year.

EPA said, since the court decision, it has received verbal and written reports from several environmental interest groups claiming that injection associated with methane gas production from coal beds contaminated underground drinking water supplies. EPA said, although its study will focus on coalbed fracturing, it also will accept comments about hydraulic fracturing associated with other types of gas production and �may later study a wider universe of hydraulic fracturing if information collected during this study indicates further investigation is warranted.�

The agency said the current study would solicit comments from state and local agencies responsible for drinking water protection, citizens, and industries performing hydraulic fracturing. It also will examine the potential risk of expanded coalbed methane production in additional deposits.

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