ProPublica: EPA's fracking study to take a broader look at effects

Nonprofit investigative news outlet ProPublica, whose reporter Abraham Lustgarten has been writing exclusively about the risks of horizontal natural gas drilling since 2008, has a new gas story today. At hand: the EPA's upcoming two-year study of the effects of "fracking," which promises to be much broader than previous studies.

"When we did the 2004 study we were looking particularly for potential for impacts from hydraulic fracturing fluid underground to underground sources of drinking water," said Cynthia Dougherty, the EPA’s director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. "So it was a much narrower focus."

For the latest study, the EPA sent its scoping document to its Science Advisory Board asking for the group’s input in designing the fracturing study. In the document, the EPA explained that information gained from looking at the impact from the start to the end of the process, called a lifecycle assessment "can help policymakers understand and make decisions about the breadth of issues related to hydraulic fracturing, including cross-media risks and the relationship to the entire natural gas production cycle."

For their part, the story reports, gas industry representatives have tended to discount pollution resulting from anything other than the actual fracturing process. According to this view, most of the documented sources of fracking-related pollution -- for instance, spills of frac fluid from trucks, holding tanks, and ponds, or contamination from cracked well casings -- don't count as fracking-related pollution.

In other news, if you put a pile of manure on a truck and dump it on your neighbor's land, it no longer comes from a cow.

Industry representative Lee Fuller opines in a letter submitted to the agency (PDF) that the EPA's intent to study such things as "Life Cycle Assessment, air emissions issues, community health and environmental justice issues and many others" would "distract the study from its Congressional intent."