EPA chief receives guidance on frac study

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 17 -- Twenty-two US House Democrats asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to use a systematic, scientific approach in its study of hydraulic fracturing to ensure transparency, accuracy, and validity.

EPA was ordered to study the technology’s possible relationship to drinking water under the fiscal 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, Rep. Gene Green (Tex.) and 21 other Democrats said in a Dec. 15 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

They specifically recommended that the study rely on accepted quality assurance guidelines; that EPA “fully take into account” previous hydraulic fracturing studies by federal or state agencies, councils, commissions, or advisory committees; and that the study be based “on well-recognized principles of risk assessment to determine whether individuals are exposed to substances in the hydraulic fracturing process at levels considered harmful to human health.”

The lawmakers called on EPA to “develop a reasonable and transparent study consistent with its 2004 study and have the results properly peer-reviewed by qualified experts in accordance with standard practices.” They said the study should make use of knowledge available in other federal agencies and state regulators.

EPA also should make the study’s results available for public review and comment before making them final, the House Democrats from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Utah, and Idaho told Jackson.

“In some ways, a letter like this wouldn’t seem necessary,” said Lee O. Fuller, director of Energy in Depth, a coalition of independent producers formed earlier this year. “EPA should understand its mandate and be prepared to execute it in a way that ensures its course of study is science-based, peer-reviewed, and informed by the knowledge and experience of experts in the field. We have every reason to believe it does, and it will.”

He noted that EPA released the results of its 2004 study after 5 years of exhaustive research, concluding that the half-century old technology “poses little or no threat” to drinking water.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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