Another study, entitled “Review of EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan“, is questioning the validity of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) data on hydraulic fracturing (“fracing”) and drinking water. The impact of fracing on drinking water has been a hot political topic for a while now, and more and more scientific studies are showing that the EPA’s data is either overblown or just plain wrong.
The Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit science and technology research and development organization, released a study recently concluding that the EPA did not define important quality requirements in its study process. The EPA used its discretionary authority to broaden its study significantly beyond what Congress requested in fiscal year 2010, which was originally only to include fracing and drinking water. Instead the EPA reached beyond, encompassing numerous peripheral elements related to oil and gas exploration and production activity, including various upstream and downstream stages of the water life cycle, site preparation and development, and standard oil and gas production and other industrial activities. The Battelle study stated that a broader study increases complexity and risk. Battelle warned that ambitious schedules, driven by various 2012 reporting goals, could make data collection and analysis less robust and thus scientific conclusions less sound. It also noted that site data collected during 2006 to 2010 could become obsolete by the time the EPA issues its final report in 2014.
The Battelle study was commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) due to concerns about the direction of the EPA study. Stephanie Meadows, API upstream policy senior advisor, said, “Battelle’s analysis of the plan for EPA’s study reinforces many of our previously stated concerns about the study and raises new ones. It finds deficiencies in the rigor, funding, focus and stakeholder inclusiveness of the plan.” She told reporters that API and ANGA intend for Battelle’s report to help EPA produce “the most scientifically sound study possible” and hopes that this study can encourage the EPA to make sure their final report is done right.
The Battelle study noted that the EPA did not designate its report as a “highly influential scientific assessment,” which would have required more rigorous standards and peer review. The Battelle study also pointed out that it appears no systematic planning was used in the EPA study, which would have allowed the study to be more “appropriately directed and academically robust.” Battelle recommended more collaboration between the EPA and organizations, like API and ANGA, which have extensive knowledge of geology and water. “Given the industry’s extensive experience with production of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs, its unique expertise in the process of hydraulic fracturing and associated technologies, and its wealth of relevant data and information available to inform this effort, it is a weakness of the study plan, and likely its implementation, that significant industry collaboration is missing,” said the report. ANGA’s vice president told reporters that the organization continues to reach out to the EPA in an attempt to develop a collaborative relationship.
I have concluded that what we have here is a half-hearted and fairly unscientific attempt by the EPA to push its agenda. I have no quarrel with the EPA if they are going to conduct a real study, using recognized scientific protocols and methodology. But why are our tax dollars being used for what appears to be another psuedo-scientific study by federal bureaucrats!
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