EPA’s current estimate of the completion time for a draft of its study of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to drinking water is now projected by the agency to be developed in early 2015. This is based on comments in a letter originating from EPA’s Region 8 office stating that the study on the risks posed by fracking to drinking water won’t reach draft final form until “early 2015”. [Region 8 Letter]

The study was undertaken at the direction of Congress in 2009 when Congress requested EPA to conduct scientific research to examine the relationship between hydraulic fracturing in drinking water resources. Background and details of the study can be found at EPA’s website [here]. The initial plan was to issue initial results in 2012 and provide a final report in 2014, but EPA has regularly pushed back its timeframe projections. The idea of the study has been controversial from the start and has prompted controversy and criticism by interest groups and elected officials. See, for example, the objections raised in December 2013 by U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue [here]. More recently, the Republican staff of the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee has issued a minority report which asserts that the impetus for the study was urged by “far left” interests intent on fighting against accessing domestic energy sources. [Link to Minority Staff Report].

Fracking has clearly expanded the availability of energy resources in the nation, but the concerns about potential impacts on drinking water and other resources remain unclear and have prompted substantial concerns. Over 30 states have moved to exercise some regulatory control over hydraulic fracturing activities, and EPA’s prolonged delay in pulling together any substantive scientific evidence regarding potential risks is simply making the controversy worse.