EPA Science Advisory Board Announces Panel to Review ‘Fracking’ Research

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s independent Science Advisory Board announced the formation of its Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel on Monday. The panel of independent experts is to peer review EPA’s 2014 draft report of results for its national study on any potential health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, which the agency earlier indicated was insignificant, although no final conclusions were reached.

Public outcry over the preliminary results led Congress to demand that EPA conduct the study to ensure an approach of openness and scientific rigor. As a result of the public pressure, the agency has engaged in a variety of activities to comply, including public meetings with stakeholders and public Webinars, technical roundtables and workshops. The agency’s Science Advisory Board reviewed the draft study plan and now has established a panel that will peer review the 2014 draft report of results, as well as provide scientific feedback.

“Our final report on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources must be based on sound science and take into account the latest practices being used by the industry,” acting administrator Bob Perciasepe said in an EPA press release. “We have worked to ensure that the study process be open and transparent throughout, and the SAB panel is another example of our approach of openness and scientific rigor.”

Leading up to the peer review, the panel will provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research “in an open and transparent manner,” according to the release.

The development of the draft report, which is directed by Congress, “is in line with the Obama administration’s focus on continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production,” according to the release sent out by e-mail late Monday afternoon.

Federal officials are planning to hold a “public meeting” on the development and processing of oil and gas on Alabama’s national forest lands in Montgomery on April 25. According to our previous reports on this subject, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management indicated that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is now the primary method for developing these resources and is the main impetus for corporate interest in leasing national forest land for development these days.

The board has identified an independent panel of 31 experts that meet the criteria of having the necessary expertise and breadth of experience to adequately review the EPA hydraulic fracturing study on the potential impacts on drinking water resources, and meet long-standing rules regarding financial conflicts of interest.

EPA will ask the panel, as a part of its public process, to specifically seek input from applied science practitioners in the field.

“Assuring the most up-to-date information on emerging science and technology of this rapidly changing industry is a critical component of the entire process,” according to the EPA release.

The board sought public nominations of nationally and internationally recognized scientists and engineers having experience and expertise related to hydraulic fracturing in an August 2012 Federal Register notice, initially seeking public comment on 144 potential candidates. As required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, the board staff worked to screen candidates for conflicts of interest and appearance of lack of impartiality. After reviewing public comments, confidential financial disclosure forms and additional information submitted by prospective candidates, the board identified the panel of 31 experts.

The board panel is comprised of five current employees of companies and consulting firms, two government employees, and 21 academics/university professors, including some previously employed in industry. It has at least three experts in each of the following nine areas of expertise that were sought for the panel: Petroleum/Natural Gas Engineering; Petroleum/Natural Gas Well Drilling; Hydrology/Hydrogeology; Geology /Geophysics; Groundwater Chemistry/Geochemistry; Toxicology/Biology; Statistics; Civil Engineering; and Waste Water and Drinking Water Treatment.

On May 7 and 8, 2013, the board panel will convene a meeting to provide individual feedback from panel members regarding EPA’s 2012 progress report on the study. The public will also have the opportunity to provide comments for the panel’s consideration. Comments from individual panel members will be considered as EPA develops its draft results in late 2014 for peer review by the board. The draft report of results will synthesize the findings from the study’s ongoing projects together with scientific literature to answer the study’s main research questions regarding hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.

Subsequent meetings will include an opportunity for presentations to the panel by experts in fracturing technologies.

More information on the SAB’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel and its activities is available at this Website.

Factsheet on SAB Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel

Names/Affiliations of the SAB Panel

Mr. John V. Fontana, Vista GeoScience LLC
Mr. Walter R. Hufford, Talisman Energy USA
Dr. Stephen W. Almond, MeadWestvaco
Dr. E. Scott Bair, Ohio State University
Dr. Elizabeth Boyer, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Susan L. Brantley, Penn State University
Dr. Peter Bloomfield, North Carolina State University
Dr. Steven Bohlen, U.S. Department of Energy
Dr. James V. Bruckner, University of Georgia
Dr. Thomas L. Davis, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Joseph J. DeGeorge, Merck Research Laboratories
Dr. Joel Ducoste, North Carolina State University
Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Dr. David Dzombak, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Katherine Bennett Ensor, Rice University
Dr. Elaine M. Faustman, University of Washington
Dr. Daniel J. Goode, U.S. Geological Survey
Dr. Abby A. Li, Exponent Inc
Mr. Dean Malouta, Independent Consultant in Oil and Gas Exploration and Development
Dr. Cass T. Miller, University of North Carolina
Dr. Laura J. Pyrak-Nolte, Purdue University
Dr. Steve Randtke, University of Kansas
Dr. Joseph Ryan, University of Colorado
Dr. James Saiers, Yale University
Dr. Eric P. Smith, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Dr. Azra N. Tutuncu, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Paul Westerhoff, Arizona State University
Dr. Thomas M. Young, University of California, Davis
Dr. Bruce D. Honeyman, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. Richard Jack, Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation
Dr. Dawn Kaback, AMEC E&I, Inc.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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