Oil and gas industry officials do not seem overly concerned about a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan announced Thursday to study one of their key processes. The EPA intends to conduct a comprehensive research study into effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and public health. The agency is allocating $1.9 million for the study this year, with plans to seek additional funding in fiscal year 2011. "Our research will be designed to answer questions about the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on human health and the environment,” said Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Industry officials welcomed the move, which they said should address concerns over whether hydraulic fracturing is safe. Devon Energy Corp. spokesman Chip Minty said earlier studies — in 1995 and 2004 — concluded the process used for 60 years to extract oil and natural gas from tight formations is no danger to groundwater. The American Petroleum Institute expects the EPA’s study to confirm "that hydraulic fracturing is a safe and well understood technology for producing oil and natural gas.” Environmental group Earthjustice also applauded the announcement. "From Wyoming to Pennsylvania, people are worried about what this untested process is doing to their drinking water,” said Jessica Ennis, legislative associate for Earthjustice. Industry officials said there has been no documented case of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing. The process has been used on more than 1 million wells since its first success near Duncan in 1949. "Hydraulic fracturing is one of the U.S. oil and gas industry’s crowning achievements, enabling us to produce energy supplies at enormous depths with surgical precision and unrivaled environmental safety records,” said Lee Fuller, executive director of advocacy group Energy in Depth. "And, simply put, new innovations are making these technologies better and better by the day.” "We are confident that a scientific and data-driven examination will provide policymakers and the public with even greater reassurance of the safety of this practice,” said Regina Hopper, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, ranking member of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, said he intends to work with the EPA to ensure its latest study is based on the best science available.
Group seeks delay in EPA oversight
An oil and gas industry group has proposed tabling legislation that would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate fracturing until the EPA completes its study. Lee Fuller, executive director of Energy in Depth, said further regulation of hydraulic fracturing could hamper domestic energy production and job growth. Calling such legislation a "bureaucratic nightmare,” U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said, "Keeping the hydraulic fracturing exemption intact from onerous EPA regulation is critical to increasing the supply of American energy.” He also said the EPA concluded in 2004 that hydraulic fracturing poses no threat to groundwater. However, environmental groups insist that study has been discredited.