Friday, November 4, 2011

EPA's initial fracking study results due in late 2012

Critics of hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracturing or fracking), the drilling technique that uses millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to blast natural gas out of deeply buried deposits of rock shale, have argued that regulators in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere should slow down their approval process and wait for the results of a comprehensive EPA study.

In New York, environmental officials have paid some heed to those critics as the state has conducted its own review of natural gas drilling. In Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett was elected with the help of hefty financial contributions from the drilling industry, enviro regulators have barely tapped the brakes.

Regardless, the federal study is ongoing. Yesterday, the EPA announced that the public would get to see preliminary study results by the end of 2012 and final results in 2014.     

The overall purpose of the study, the EPA says,  is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. 
"The scope of the research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal."
So far, the agency says it has:
  • Conducted an initial literature review
  • Requested and received information from industry on chemicals and practices used in hydraulic fracturing 
  • Discussed initial plans for case studies with landowners and state, local and industry representatives.
  • Conducted baseline sampling for retrospective case studies using scientifically sound approaches that have been shared with collaborators.

EPA estimates that gas shale production will produce more than 20 percent of the total US gas supply by 2020.

The agency offers the following information on hydraulic fracturing. 

Related media coverage:

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