EPA Announcement Is First Public Acknowledgment that New Fracing Study Is Underway
EPA announced today that its Science Advisory Board Environmental Engineering Committee ("EEC") will hold a public meeting on April 7th and 8th in Washington D.C. to evaluate and comment on EPA's proposed approach to study the potential public health and environmental protection issues that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing performed for natural gas extraction from geologic formations. The draft plan, which has yet to be released and was created by EPA's Office of Research and Development, ("ORD") lays out an approach to:
- gather existing data and information including a stakeholder input process;
- catalog potential risks to drinking water supplies from hydraulic fracturing;
- identify data gaps; and
- develop research questions, research needs, and research products.
This announcement is the first public acknowledgment that EPA's new fracing study is underway, which could provide additional weight to comments from industry and legislators, including most recently from members of the House Natural Gas Caucus, that Congress wait for the results of EPA's study before moving on federal regulation. We anticipate a robust, peer-reviewed process with input from all perspectives, particularly as the oil and gas production industry appears to be pleased that EPA is moving forward with the study, although we would expect some significant ramp-up time as the ORD continues to familiarize itself with the sector.
The Federal Register notice can be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-5956.htm. Information about the EEC process, members, etc. can be found at www.epa.gov/sab. The draft plan is expected to be posted to www.epa.gov/sab at some point prior to the meeting. The meeting is scheduled to last from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on April 7th and from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on April 8th. Interested parties can submit written comments to the EEC for consideration, and attendees at the meeting will be afforded a brief opportunity to give an oral statement, although the time for public comment at the meeting will be limited to one hour total. The deadline for submitting comments or for requesting an opportunity to speak at the meeting is March 29th.