EPA announced in a news release that it would perform seven "case studies" that would assess the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The Agency intends to perform two types of studies. First, there will be "prospective case studies" in which EPA will monitor key aspects of the fracking process throughout the lifecycle of a well. Washington County, PA will be one of the three prospective case studies. Second, it will perform "retrospective case studies" in which EPA will examine areas where fracking has already occurred to determine if there has been any impact on drinking water resources. Bradford and Susquehanna Counties will be two of the five retrospective case studies. According to the news release, the studies will use best available science and will be conducted in a transparent, peer-reviewed process.
I have always been a little leery of EPA's involving itself in the oversight of the Marcellus Shale business in Pennsylvania. My perspective is that PADEP is more than capable of regulating the industry and protecting Pennsylvania's groundwater and surface water. With that said, I don't have any problem with EPA performing a study. The gentleman at EPA who announced the study, Paul Anastas, the Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development, served with me on the National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). As NACEPT members, we could both see how seriously the scientists in the ORD office take their work. I would not expect to see a study where the conclusions are drawn up first and the data is gathered to support any pre-determined conclusions. To the contrary, I would expect to see an honest study done by scientists with no pre-determined agenda. That is what I observed of EPA's Science Office when I served on NACEPT for six years, and I would fully expect an objective, well reasoned and thoughtful study to be performed here.