EPA Releases Final Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan

Yesterday, (November 4th), EPA announced its final research plan on hydraulic fracturing (HF). This study is being conducted at the request of Congress to better understand potential impacts of HF on drinking water resources.  To develop this study plan, EPA held a series of public meetings to receive input from states, industry, environmental and public health groups, and individual citizens. The Science Advisory Board (SAB) also reviewed the draft study plan to ensure that it follows a scientifically sound approach.  EPA expects to publish an interim report of results in 2012 and a final report in 2014. EPA also plans to be transparent throughout the study process and release periodic updates for all interested stakeholders.

EPA is working with the U.S. Department of Energy, USGS, states, and other stakeholders to conduct five retrospective and two prospective case studies in various locations across the nation.  The study will investigate the full cycle of water in the hydraulic fracturing process from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the management of flowback and produced water, as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal.  EPA, with support from the SAB, has already begun to undertake some of the study activities including collecting voluntary information from well drilling companies on: chemicals used in the drilling process; standard operating procedures; and water quality data from both gas well owners and operators and private well owners.

Separate from the study, EPA is using existing authorities under the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts to:  address issues with HF wastewater disposal, treatment, and effluent; and developing guidance to assist UIC permit writers where diesel fuels are added to hydraulic fracturing fluids.

For more information about the study as well as EPA’s HF efforts in this area more broadly, visit EPA’s web site at: www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing.

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