Thursday, July 12, 2012

Industry Groups Release Critical Analysis Of EPA Fracking Study Plan

Jul 10: The American Petroleum Institute (API) senior policy advisor Stephanie Meadows told reporters that more collaboration is needed on EPA's study on hydraulic fracturing and drinking water [See WIMS 3/19/12]. She said a new 166-page Battelle Memorial Institute report -- Review of EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan EPA/600/R11/122 -- concluded that the study could be enhanced in several ways, including encouraging more stakeholder collaboration. API and America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) sponsored the Battelle report. EPA has indicated that a first progress report on its study is planned for late 2012, and a final draft report is expected to be released for public comment and peer review in 2014.

    Meadows said, "Battelle's analysis of the plan for EPA's study reinforces many of our previously stated concerns about the study and raises new ones. It finds deficiencies in the rigor, funding, focus and stakeholder inclusiveness of the plan. We intend Battelle's report to be -- and hope the agency sees it as -- our continued interest in working together to produce the most scientifically sound study possible. A robust, thorough, careful study is important because it has the potential to affect the future course of shale energy development, which has enormous potential for improving our energy security and economy for decades to come. We're not calling on EPA to stop its study. We're calling on them to do it right. We hope Battelle's analysis will encourage that."
    ANGA President and Chief Executive Officer Regina Hopper said, "This is a study with potentially great significance to our nation's energy future, and it must be pursued with the utmost scientific rigor. The Battelle analysis clearly shows that we aren't there yet.  But we can get there-and we must get there. ANGA and its members continue to support EPA's effort to conduct a balanced study based on sound scientific principles. 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. EPA's study has the potential for enormous impacts on citizens, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and all economic sectors. We remain confident that a science- and data-driven examination will provide policymakers and the public with even greater reassurance of the safety of this practice."
    According to the Battelle report, EPA states the purpose of the planned study "is to elucidate the relationship, if any, between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources." Furthermore, according to EPA, the overarching goal is to answer the following two research questions: 1) can hydraulic fracturing impact drinking water resources? and 2) if so, what conditions are associated with these potential impacts? Lastly, EPA defines hydraulic fracturing as "a well stimulation technique used to maximize production of oil and natural gas in unconventional reservoirs, such as shale gas, coalbeds, and tight sands."

    Battelle indicates, "While those stated purposes, goals and definitions are all consistent with the congressional request, the actual scope and design of the study plan do not provide the same consistency. They reach beyond "studying the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water" encompassing numerous peripheral elements related to the broader enterprise of all oil and gas exploration and production activities, such as various upstream and downstream stages of the water lifecycle, site preparation and development, and standard oil and gas production and other industrial activities. EPA also elected to add a study element on Environmental Justice (EJ) that is not central to a scientific study of the drinking water effects of hydraulic fracturing. It is neither explicitly nor implicitly included in the congressional request. . ."

    In March 2010, EPA released a scoping document for evaluating the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. The initial study design adopted "a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach to identify potential interrelationships between energy, water, the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, the surrounding environment, and safeguards for public health protection." In April 2010, the EPA received advice on the scoping document from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) in an open meeting, followed in June 2010 by written recommendations. Public comments were also submitted. Later in 2010, EPA held sector specific and State and Federal partner consultation meetings, public meetings and other meetings to solicit input to the overall study plan. EPA also requested information from nine hydraulic fracturing service companies on the chemical composition and other information related to fracturing fluids. In February 2011, EPA released a draft study plan, followed in August by the SAB's evaluation of the draft study plan. Finally, in November 2011 EPA released the Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources (study plan) [See WIMS 11/3/11].

    Access a release from API (click here). Access a release from ANGA (click here). Access the complete 166-page Battelle report (click here). Access a release from EPA on its study plan (click here). Access the 190-page final EPA study plan (click here). Access a new Q&A document on EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing study (click here). Access EPA's release on the seven case study locations (click here). Access EPA's website on the fracking study (click here). Access more information on EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing website (click here). [#Energy/Frack]

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