EPA Holds Public Meeting on Hydraulic Fracturing

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On Thursday evening, June 22, 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the "EPA") held its third of four public meetings in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, related to its upcoming study of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources. With over 900 registrants and approximately 160 speakers, the agency entertained comments on the scope of its study.

The EPA started the meeting with a presentation on its work to define the scope of the study. As anticipated, the EPA will concentrate its focus on water resources in a fairly broad manner, including the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quantity and quality, with an emphasis on fresh water aquifers. The EPA hopes to define the scope of the study by no later than the end of 2010, after further consultation with the EPA's Science Advisory Board. The EPA is also looking for partners, including industry participants and landowners, to develop case studies to review the historical and real-time impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

The ability of those conducting the study to focus on sound science and actual data is crucial to determining the success or failure of the study. As evidenced by the public comments that followed the EPA?s presentation, the issue of hydraulic fracturing brings high emotions. Speakers requested that the EPA review impacts of hydraulic fracturing not only on the environment and water resources, but also on transportation, political, socio-economic, and moral issues. However, without a clear focus on the impacts of the hydraulic fracturing process on water resources, and more importantly, on the quality of groundwater, the study will provide no firm scientific basis for any action.

The EPA hopes to commence the study by the start of 2011 and to have preliminary findings available to the public no later than the end of 2012. The EPA will conclude its public meetings on August 12, 2010 with a final meeting in Binghamton, New York.

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