EPA Announces Face-to-Face Meeting to Discuss Proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Author:Ms Susan Cooke, Jonathan H. Flynn and Elizabeth P. Philpott
Profession:McDermott Will & Emery
 
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The Environmental Engineering Committee of EPA's Science Advisory Board will meet on April 7 and 8, 2010, to evaluate the proposed hydraulic fracturing study and to provide advice to the agency on its plans for carrying out the study.

For more than half a century hydraulic fracturing has been used to extract natural gas from coal seams, shale formations and other hard-to-access geologic formations. To enhance production, fluids, such as water with various chemical additives, are injected at high pressure to create and enlarge fractures in rock and coal formations so that oil and gas can travel more freely. As use of this method of extraction has grown, increased concerns have been raised about the amount of water needed to conduct hydraulic fracturing and the potential contamination of water supplies.

In its $32 billion Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, the U.S. House of Representatives urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess this risk, utilizing the best available science. EPA has now allocated almost $2 million to conduct a peer-reviewed study of "fracking." On March 18, 2010, it announced that the Environmental Engineering Committee of its Science Advisory Board would meet on April 7 and 8, 2010, to evaluate the proposed hydraulic fracturing study scheduled for completion in 2012 and to provide advice to the agency on its plans for carrying out the study. This meeting is open to the public.

EPA's Past Investigation and Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing

In the 1997 Eleventh Circuit Court decision LEAF v. EPA, 118F. 3d 1467 (11th Cir. 1997), the court ruled that hydraulic fracturing of coalbeds to produce methane gas was a form of underground injection and that Alabama's EPA-approved underground injection control program must regulate this practice in an effective manner. As a result of this decision and of concerns raised by the public and U.S. Congress, EPA decided to evaluate hydraulic fracturing's risk to underground sources of drinking water. EPA's draft study was completed in 2002 and found that this practice posed a minimal threat to underground sources of drinking water. EPA also concluded that no additional studies were warranted. These same conclusions were verified in the final study report published in 2004. However, as a precautionary measure EPA entered into an agreement with the three largest hydraulic fracturing companies to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids injected into coalbed methane...

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