EPA announced in March 2010 that it would conduct a research study to investigate the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, under direction from Congress in its fiscal year 2010 Appropriations Committee Conference Report. EPA published a draft plan on February 7, 2011. The plan has now been finalized following a series of public meetings and a review conducted by the Science Advisory Board. EPA's response to specific Board comments may be found here.
As stated in the research plan,
The overall purpose of this study is to elucidate the relationship, if any, between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. More specifically, the study has been designed to assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources and to identify the driving factors that affect the severity and frequency of any impacts. Based on the increasing development of shale gas resources in the US, and the comments EPA received from stakeholders, this study emphasizes hydraulic fracturing in shale formations.Study results are expected to be released publicly in 2012. At that point, EPA expects to have results from data analysis, modeling and retrospective case studies available to inform a preliminary assessment of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The final report is expected in 2014, when EPA will have additional results from data analysis and modeling, as well as additional laboratory and case study results to expand its assessment.
More detail on hydraulic fracturing may be found on EPA's website.
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