SAB Panel Reviews EPA's Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study
An EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel recently released an early version of its recommendations regarding the Agency's closely-followed
hydraulic fracturing study. A draft of the study was issued by EPA's Office of Research and Development in June 2015, finding that while water supply "vulnerabilities" exist, hydraulic fracturing does not have "widespread, systemic impacts" on drinking water. Despite EPA's insistence that the report is not designed to inform specific policies, commentators have paid close attention because of the study's potential role in the ongoing debate regarding further regulation of the industry.
The SAB panel's review, presented in a "Preliminary Summary Responses" document, is the latest development in this discussion and may impact the final version of the study. Among other comments, the SAB panel report indicates that it is not clear how EPA's statement of no widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water "reflects the uncertainties and data limitations the data described" in the draft study. The SAB panel recommends that the Agency revise its statements of findings "to be more precise and specific, and to clearly draw from the body of the report."
In response to the SAB's recommendations, EPA could potentially amend its prior finding of no widespread, systemic impacts. The SAB is expected to issue a final report with consensus advice in the spring of 2016. EPA still plans to issue its final hydraulic fracturing study in 2016. EPA has faced criticism over its previous groundwater investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming; Parker County, Texas; and Dimock, Pennsylvania.