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

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.