SAB, API differ on fracking impact on drinking water

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | September 16, 2016

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes its assessment of the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, industry experts, researchers and advisors continue offering suggestions to help EPA complete its report.

In a previous draft of the report, the EPA concluded that fracking has no widespread impact on drinking water sources. The American Petroleum Institute believes the EPA’s findings are not only clear, but that they are also complete. “Study after study shows that hydraulic fracturing is safe,” said Erik Milito, API upstream and industry operations director.

The EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board doesn’t believe the EPA’s work on fracking and drinking water is complete, however. The SAB has completed a peer review of the EPA’s study, stating in the executive summary of its peer review that “in general, the SAB finds the EPA’s overall approach to assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing water cycle processes involved in oil and gas production on drinking water resources to be comprehensive but lacking in several critical areas.”

During the past two years, the SAB has held five public teleconferences and four public meetings to help it create recommendations to EPA on the subject of drinking water and fracking. The EPA will now utilize the input from SAB, along with public input and comments to revise its final assessment on fracking and drinking water.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission has already issued its comments to the EPA. In a letter sent to the EPA, NDIC said that, “EPA’s draft assessment is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date and will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources.”

The NDIC also expressed hopes that SAB would add quantitative information on how many instances of each mechanism/vulnerability were identified, the geological and geographical circumstances of each instance and recognition of effective regulatory processes that have been created by states like North Dakota to address those mechanisms/vulnerabilities.

With more than 950 sources of information, published papers, technical reports and peer-reviewed scientific EPA reports, the API disagrees with SAB’s opinion that more work needs to be done to allow the EPA to say there is no widespread or systematic impact of drinking water due to hydraulic fracturing.

“Instead of denying the scientific evidence proving the environmental benefits of hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. should be celebrating the overwhelming data demonstrating that hydraulic fracturing is helping reduce GHG emissions and other emissions, and has helped lower energy costs for consumers,” Milito said.

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Scientific Advisory Board’s Recommendations
For Revamped Report:

· Provide clarity and support of major findings.
· Recognize local impacts.
· Provide more case studies.
· Explain probability and risk of failure scenarios.
· Explain chemical toxicity and hazard levels.
· Provide characteristics of hydraulic fracturing fluids.
· Examine baseline water quality data.
· Define the term proximity.
· Define the treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewater.
· Provide better accessibility of the assessment to a broad audience.