Battelle report questions EPA fracing-water study process

A Battelle Memorial Institute review of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water concludes EPA did not define important quality requirements in its study process.

Battelle has released a 166-page study outing its analysis, which was done upon the request of the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

EPA used its discretionary authority to broaden its study significantly beyond what Congress requested in fiscal year 2010. A broader study increases complexity and risk, Battelle said.

Ambitious schedules, driven by various 2012 reporting goals, could make data collection and analysis less robust and scientific conclusions less sound, Battelle warned.

Site data collected during 2006-10 could become obsolete by the time EPA issues its final report in 2014, Battelle said.

Stephanie Meadows, API upstream policy senior advisor, told reporters during a July 10 teleconference that API and ANGA intend for Battelle’s report to help EPA produce “the most scientifically sound study possible.”

Battelle noted EPA did not designate its study as a “highly influential scientific assessment.” Such a formal designation would have triggered higher standards for peer review, study design, data quality, and transparency.

“It is not apparent that systematic planning…was used,” Battelle said of EPA’s process. “It is conceivable, had a systematic planning process been applied from the outset and in more explicit fashion, the study design would have been more appropriately directed and scientifically robust.”

For instance, a more formal study design might have involved a different case study program and different modeling, Battelle said.

Battelle recommended more collaboration between EPA and industry.

Amy Farrell, ANGA’s vice-president for regulatory affairs, said API and ANGA member companies have extensive knowledge of geology and water.

“We hope to continue reaching out to EPA and developing a collaborative relationship,” she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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