The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has published a draft assessment based on the 2010 study requested by Congress into the possible effects caused by hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Hydraulic fracturing has been combined with horizontal drilling techniques to allow production of oil and natural gas from previously untapped resources, such as shale and other tight subsurface formations, and has resulted in expanded domestic production of oil and natural gas and economic growth.
In 2011, EPA undertook the study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The scope of the study and resulting draft assessment includes examination of five activities associated with hydraulic fracturing: water acquisition, chemical mixing, well injection, produced water, and wastewater treatment on drinking water sources. While the assessment recognized certain possible risks in these procedures and identified isolated incidents where drinking water resources were impacted, the June 2015 draft assessment concluded that those instances were rare as compared with the number of hydraulically fractured wells. The draft assessment found that hydraulic fracturing has not caused widespread or systemic impacts on drinking water resources.
The draft assessment is available here. The draft assessment will be subject to peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board and public comment before being finalized. In addition, as part of the review process, EPA’s Science Advisory Board will be holding public teleconferences and a public meeting. More information about participating in the public comment process is available here.