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EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Study: What’s the latest?

2013 May 6

By Aaron Ferster

As a member of EPA’s science communication crew and the editor of our science blog, I’m always on the lookout for breaking news and good stories to share about Agency research. That’s why I as a bit dismayed during our daily team meeting Thursday morning when one of my colleagues mentioned seeing a newspaper headline announcing results from a widely-anticipated EPA study on hydraulic fracturing. Huh. How could I have missed that?

Before I could even begin to apologize for missing the big announcement (okay, maybe I daydream a little during early morning meetings if I have not had coffee yet), team members more familiar with the study—the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources—began to assure me and the rest of the gang that we had not missed anything. Not only is the study still going on, but draft results are not expected until late 2014 (after extensive, transparent scientific peer review).

EPA researchers are conducting the study in response to a 2010 request from Congress to address questions about hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. Since that time, to ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor, the Agency has engaged in a wide variety of activities, including public meetings and webinars with stakeholders and others, technical roundtables, and workshops.

The Agency’s Science Advisory Board reviewed the draft study plan, and its recently-established Hydraulic Fracturing Research Panel will hold a public meeting this week (May 7– 8, 2013) in Arlington, VA. The meeting is an opportunity for Panel members to provide expert comments on questions associated with the research described in a study Progress Report released in December, 2012. Anyone is welcome to view the meeting via webcast on the Science Advisory Board website.

As part of EPA’s commitment to transparent stakeholder engagement and to ensure that the study is up-to-date with the latest changes and advancements in industry practices and technologies, it recently extended the deadline for the public to submit data and scientific publications to inform the literature review component of the study.  The new deadline is November 15, 2013. (The only effect this extension should have is to improve the scientific rigor of the study.)

With all that still in the works, I was easily convinced I had not missed any big announcements, and that there would still be plenty of opportunity to share Agency scoops here on the blog.  Just the same, I’ll be sure to get coffee before the next morning meeting.

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the editor of It All Starts with Science, and a frequent contributor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. Brian Rutledge permalink
    May 6, 2013

    Aaron Ferster,
    I understand that you did not miss big fracwater news. But what did the premature news release say? Was it accurate/fabricated/inaccurate? Or did the headline just exaggerated the “news” and the article was merely an accurate update of progress made, with no claims to release results?

    • Aaron@EPA permalink*
      May 7, 2013

      Thanks for your question Brian. My impression is that some headlines don’t match the story. Since the EPA hydraulic fracturing study exploring potential impacts on drinking water is still in the works, no conclusions have been reached.

      The Agency is committed to transparency in all aspects of the study, so please do keep an eye on our blog and web site for regular updates.

  2. Jimm D. Thomas permalink
    May 6, 2013

    I find the probilities of ‘fracking’ to be a bigger problem than we can imagine.
    Our industries, especially oil & gas, always seem to be based primarialy on PROFITS
    and ease of disguise. There is a major ‘quiet’ industry in this country that deals
    in illegal disposal of materials and are willing to put extreme profits into the
    quiet dispersion/disposal of fluids generated by many various industrial operations.
    I cannot imagine this country’s ability or willingness to police the Fracking Process
    and Application……. what we don’t know won’t hurt us is the motto….

    It’s a sad situation as it really requires true concern and honesty in the practice
    of making great “quiet” profits. Two situations that ‘don’t mix’ in the game of
    more ‘Money for Me’!

    Consider the great quantities of ‘stuff’ already dumped out there….think mercury and
    the Hudson River…!

  3. Anne Smylie permalink
    May 6, 2013

    It wakes you up fairly nicely when they scare you like that. Thanks for the update.

    • Aaron@EPA permalink*
      May 7, 2013

      I definitely prefer coffee to that kind of a jolt — thanks for your comment!

  4. Arman.- permalink
    May 7, 2013

    Phytagoras And Coffee.-

    He was ran in all direction after discovered his theory.The people said eccentric about him, because they knew he was genius. The men who like him, and also The Ladies, have characteristic behaviors within process of their life. We need their contribution to save the universe. We need them. we need the people who care humanity………..!

  5. Jamey Dunn-Thomason permalink
    June 6, 2013

    Is archived video of that hearing available anywhere online? Or was it a one-time-only webcast? I did not find it at the link.

  6. Holly Berkowitz permalink
    October 26, 2013

    Those that value our cash system more than their own childrens’ future focus on private details of the obvious and the now…..but fail to see the big picture that our nation needs to lead us to a safer future of, by, for All 100%…..even for the children of the oil and gas industry CEOs.

    I recommend that our public nation of many private selves value nature’s productivity impossible to count in human cash….nature’s amazing productive wonders that clean up human messes and that produce and cleanse and manage critical flows continuously such as O2, H2O, rich, organic soil that grows green, seeds, seedlings that reach upwards toward light enough to produce abundant riches of the earth enough to count in mechanical human counts that crush life…..to produce critical flows and functions and critical outcomes for All 100% impossible to count in human cash.

    Ironically, human cash systems value and count the most critical flows for humans the least, O2, H2O, soil, green…..and the least critical the most, diamonds, gold, dirty energy, dirty energy wars…..those artificial “values” an “excuse” to crush and destroy nature’s amazing wonders……rippping apart our fragile web for all life.

    Ban tracking now asap immediately yesterday:

    Fracking destroys our abilities and resources to invest in renewable energy use, production, infrastructure that promises a much brighter and prosperous future.

    Those that push oil and gas fracking are lying to us and hiding the real costs to All 100%:

    Help!

    As an American who cares about critical flows clean air, O2, H2O, rich and organic soil and the ability of our lands to carry my children into a safer future, climate change shapes both public health and our economy, our ecological economy that produces all critical flows for humans: I urge you to finalize strong carbon standards that reduce carbon pollution from power plants immediately asap now yesterday…..and that our nation invests immediately into a critical transition from dirty energy to renewable energy and a smart grid of, by, for All 100%…….because dirty energy industries have threatened the ability. Carbon pollution standards are a significant next step in tackling climate change and protecting our air, health, and economy. Carbon emissions of humans’ Industrial Revolution of the last 150 years have caused more damage to our climate and earth’s carrying capacity than millions and billions of years before that….

    I also urge you to consider the very significant role that renewable energy can play to ensure a transition away from fossil fuel-based energy generation to a low-carbon energy future. We need that now, asap, immediately, yesterday and cannot wait for the destructive cash-driven, political games that the oil-gas-coal forces have used to obstruct our access to a more affordable, safer, cleaner and revitalizing future made possible with renewable energy investment of, by, for All 100%….

    We cannot afford for only 1% of our population to destroy the future of their own children…..of, by, for All 100%….

    Those controlled by the erroneous assumption that privatized cashflow floods means “wealth” or “riches” are wrong, very, very wrong, wrong scientifically, wrong mathematically, wrong economically, wrong egonomically, wrong morally and often wrong legally.

    Expanding clean energy sources such as wind and solar can ensure that a shift away from coal does not result in an over-reliance on natural gas and deadly hydraulic fracking that causes too many unacceptable costs for All 100%…threatening even the critical flows water we drink and the air we breathe….even the ability of life and land to produce the soil that we need to produce our food.

    A natural gas-dominated electricity system poses significant climate, economic, and public health risks and does not represent a long-term solution to global warming. In fact, “fracking” intended to extract “natural gas” (a sinister euphemism) or methane or CH4 is not “safe” or “natural” or “affordable” as the cash-driven gas and oil industries want us to believe so we will invest in deadly destruction of our nation…..instead of a brighter future for their own children, ironically.

    Methane of “fracking” as CH4 is actually a much greater risk to our climate’s stability than carbon dioxide as CO2…….Methane is 25 to 100 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO2 that has already baked and drowned our earth’s land, water and weather systems to the highest level of carbon (as CO2 units) in human history….the last time earth’s concentrations of carbon (as CO2 units) in our atmosphere reached 400 parts per million was several million years ago….when seas were much higher. Our nation and world cannot afford the stupid and cash-driven ignorance and apathy that destroys the scientific logic and caring that we need to grow a more positive future for our own children and their childrens’ children…..even the children of oil, gas, coal, GOP CEOS that have verified that they care more about their own privatized, obvious, immediate cashflow floods than they care about their own childrens’ future. Amazing. Sad.

    During Iraq War II, I had nightmares often about nations of the world destroying each other over fewer and fewer oil/gas resources that were more and more difficult, more and more expensive to access and of poorer and poorer qualities and quanitities……..while also destroying the ironical fragile, hidden but critical earth systems of nature that humans need to produce the critical flows of O2, H2O, soil to grow food and shelter for human cities……..

    Fricken fracken has proven unacceptable and costly to our nation……and threatens our nation’s and worlds’ ability to produce the critical flows of nature that humans need to survive day to day and minute to minute, violating the trust promised by our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity that enable All 100% safer, more affordable access to health, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” of any definition…..more than simple quantities of counts of human cash:

    * destroys drinking water aquifers for the entire continent
    * very toxic processes threatening public and private health, “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for entire communities, states, regions of our nation……violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * toxic processes that cause tails to fall off of cows violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * criminal and immoral “legal” manipulation of laws by Dick Cheney et al to make release of information about release of toxics into a neighborhood “illegal” …………when the release of toxics into a community is immoral……Cheney manipulating human laws to make the immoral and unacceptable “legal” in human law….. violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * manipulation of human law of, by, for a cruel and cash-driven corporatocracy of, by, for only 1% of America…..at taxpayer expense in costs impossible to count in cash
    * unacceptable toxic, destructive and deadly sinkholes caused by fricken fracken……….. violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * manipulation of human law of, by, for a cruel and cash-driven corporatocracy of, by, for only 1% of America…..at taxpayer expense in costs impossible to count in cash……… violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * unacceptable toxic spills from pipelines caused by
    * unavoidable leakage (because human pipes are artificial and mechanical and deteriorate through time reliably) ……… violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity and
    * the cash-driven oil and gas industry has pushed materials through aging and inadequate pipes that should not be pushed through artificial human conduits………… violating the promises of our US Constitution, international laws and treaties and moral laws of reciprocity
    * our nation’s GOP and Reaganonomists or Voodoonomists (Bush Senior in debates with Reagan decades ago) has clung to the erroneous assumption that the word “economy” means unlimited, careless and thoughtless overconsumption at all costs throwing terrible costs and consequences onto the many unsuspecting, onto the many innocents of life and land in the US and beyond…. But the word root “eco-” means “house” or “oikos” in Greek….and refers to the management of flows in that house, cell, organism, or self or globe of life and land inalienable…..”eco+nomic” meaning managing the numbers (“n”) of both consumption and production to balance both supply and demand for equilibrium…..”eco+logic” meaning “logic” or complex designs of nature impossible to count in human cash that work synergistically and enable tiny seeds, seedlings, soils to reach upwards toward light enough to grow abundant riches of the earth enough for all to share now and generations from now…..But some just don’t get it….and assume erroneously in a linear, artificial, mechanical world of human walls that they need to push the other down to lift the privatized self up….and assume erroneously in a linear, artificial, mechanical, divisive world that they need to take from the other to get for the privatized self…..and assume erroneously that privatized cash profiteering justifies all….but they are wrong, very, very wrong, wrong scientifically, wrong mathematically, wrong economically, wrong egonomically, wrong moraly and often wrong legally….

    I believe we have an obligation to protect our children and future generations from the effects of climate change by addressing its causes and its impacts.

    Numerous religions warn humans to count more than human cash. Why? Glittery, hypnotic, deadly cashflow floods of human cities, urbanization, industrialization blind many, numbing, dumbing, dulling, nulling the many to the value of life and living systems of earth’s inalienable ecological economies, logical economies of life and land, of nature’s critical organisms, plants, animals, earth systems, critical producers and ecological systems that produce the critical flows to keep humans alive day to day and minute to minute.

    But some just don’t get it and claim to “own” God and their lands and lives, instead, enslaving many……valuing, counting deadly cashflow floods more than life.

    Motives of human cash systems crush fragile lives to divide into mechanical, artificial parts privatized to count……and count to divide to conquer to crush the competition, the other, the diverse, the nonsame the critical producers and flows that hold the fragile logic of our web for all life intact….

    Humans need privatizing, obvious, short-term, urbanizing cash systems as a tool, as a hammer to build great cities and great civilizations as a legacy to pass on to future generations…..but cash systems as destructive cashflow floods can also kill to suck all down easy, cheap, quick.

    Our nation and world cannot afford to destroy its self.

    But some just don’t get it, limiting their privatized vision to the immediate, obvious, dictated walls and barriers and deadly cashflow floods that dictators of only 1% need to control and crush the many, the vulnerable of life and land…..ripping apart our fragile web for all life……assuming erroneously in a linear and blinding world view that they need to take from the other to get for one privatized self…..that they need to push the other down forcefully to lift the private self up to win what….that privatized cash profiteering justifies all ….at all costs.

  7. Holly Berkowitz permalink
    October 26, 2013

    Our nation and world need a new paradigm for scientific analysis:

    Most humans live in human cities of thick and dense walls and barriers that block their access to nature’s green and amazing wonders beyond urbanized and factory walls……causing many to assume erroneously that simple quantities or numbers of cash in private bank accounts defines personal worth…..but they are wrong, very, very wrong, wrong scientifically, wrong mathematically, wrong economically, wrong egonomically, wrong morally and often wrong legally.

    But some…many just don’t get it and refuse to reach beyond the privatizing cocoon of thick, urbanizing walls and barriers that many build around their private selves, privatized, immediate, obvious cashflow floods that destroy the fragile watersheds and airsheds of nature that humans need to produce the critical flows of O2, H2O, soil and food to keep humans alive day to day and minute to minute. But some just don’t get it.

    For generations, centuries, thousands of years humans have used metal coins and papers to erect human cities of walls and barriers and human-controlled conduits that control, manage, obstruct flows of critical supplies to diverse populations in and out of those human cities……using human cash systems to divide to count and counting to divide to conquer other populations.

    Many humans limit their vision to the privatized, immediate, obvious and everyday worlds of manufacturing artificial human structures and images to manufacture cashflow to keep their selves and families alive with enough food on the table from day to day….

    Some manipulate and control these urbanizing schemes, buttons, scams, mechanics, artificial structures and secrecy of industrialization to control the many, only 1% controlling 99% with the power to destroy the common future of the many, the 100%.

    Over the last 150 years, these thick, dense human walls and barriers of dead concrete, asphalt, metals, glass and historic combustion of fossil fuels that has released historic levels of carbon (measured in CO2 units of carbon dioxide) into our common air supplies……to historic levels of 400 parts per million (ppm) never before seen in human history.

    Carbon molecules as Cx absorb heat and have caused temperatures of our earth’s climates, lands and oceans to skyrocket also, causing historic melts of polar ice, opening up shipping routes through the Arctic for the first time in human history, causing catastrophic shifts in ancient earth systems, both structures, flows, functions impossible to count in human cash of the private, immedidate, obvious self stuck in one obvious now.

    Yet, the cash-driven industries that profit privately from the extraction and combustion of carbon-based fossilized fuels have conspired (many times illegally and immorally) to deceive our nation and world to continue to extract and burn these dangerous molecules (and other pollutants and greenhouse gases) that threaten to turn our earth into a “different planet” that cannot carry life as it does now…..and threatens to cause catastrophic chaos and costs not even imaginable to most.

    Only 1% has blinded their selves and the many to the catastrophic costs and consequences for All 100% caused by their privatizing greed………spending more on deceiving US ……and valuing their own privatized bank account more than their own childrens’ future. Amazing. Criminal.

  8. Holly Berkowitz permalink
    October 26, 2013

    Many humans limit their vision and minds to the immediate, obvious, privatizing bank accounts of only one obvious now as their definition of their word, “economic” and world view……refusing to reach out beyond the obvious, beyond the private self, beyond the immediate and short-term definitions of Wall Street riches.

    But human cities have evolved through thousands of years as public investments that are made up of many private and privatized selves inalienable from the whole.

    Unfortunately, our nation has focused on privatization, cost-shifting to taxpayers and deregulation of public laws and public worlds since Ronald Reagan hatched “Reaganomics” in 1980 (and the GOP has pushed Reaganomics for 30 years as the definition of “economics”)…..even though George Bush Senior labeled “Reaganomics” as “voodoonomics” in his debates with Reagan decades ago.

    The evidence has become overwhelming that human worlds limit their definition of economics to cashflow floods, crushing nature’s fragile but critcial ecological economies that humans need for survival. Human cities and definitions of “economics” as cashflow floods for only 1% also privatize and destroy safe and affordable public infrastructure foundations that any human needs to find safe, affordable access to the critical flows that nature produces, critical flows and functions and structures of nature that hold the fragile web for all life intactc…..critical flows and producers and logic impossible to count in cash, critical flows of O2, H2O, soil and green that cleanse and heal broken worlds.

    Humans need an economy defined as more than human cash…..that includes the invaluable ecological economy, logical economy of nature impossible to count in cash…..

    Humans need to balance human cash budgets with earth’s budgets of critical flows and producers of nature….to balance our own.

    Will some get it?

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