US EPA names expert panel to review fracking study

25 March 2013 22:59  [Source: ICIS news]

US EPA names expert panel to review fracking studyWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday announced a 31-member panel of experts that is to review the agency’s developing and controversial study on the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies.

The EPA’s science advisory board (SAB) said that members of the review panel, which is primarily composed of academics, was chosen from among 144 nominated candidates.

In addition to 21 academics and university professors, the panel also includes two federal government employees and experts in nine key areas, including oil and gas engineering, well drilling, groundwater chemistry, civil engineering and waste water treatment.

Formally known as the Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel (HFRA), the 31-member group is to review, sometime in 2014, the EPA’s draft report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, on drinking water supplies.

Along with horizontal drilling, fracking has generated new abundance in US natural gas supplies, which in turn have triggered a boom in domestic US chemicals production and a renaissance in other manufacturing.

Fracking involves high-pressure injection of water and chemical additives into deep shale rock formations to free-up natgas resources that until recently were thought to be beyond recovery.

The EPA study, ordered by Congress in 2010 and initiated by the agency in late 2011, is a two-year effort that is supposed to examine the full cycle of water in fracking from acquisition of water supplies, through the mixing of chemicals and injection processes, as well as the treatment of flowback water.

The study is under development by a different panel of EPA-designated experts.

But that study panel and the plan of research have already come under sharp criticism from the US energy industry.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) charged in July last year that the EPA study was being conducted on the basis of “sharply limited and possibly biased well data” and is not transparent.

The API and ANGA analysis said that the EPA study was flawed from the outset and that it lacked scientific and stakeholder balance that would make the results not credible.

The energy groups said the study panel itself was heavily slanted toward the environmental and academic communities with little or no representation of hands-on energy industry specialists.

EPA said that the new review panel would hold a meeting on 7-8 May, at which the public will have an opportunity to provide comment.

By: Joe Kamalick
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