Five SAB Panel Members Support Dissenting Opinion, Agree EPA’s Topline Conclusion is Sound

Five members of Science Advisory Board’s (SAB) Hydraulic Fracturing Panel have acknowledged support of fellow SAB member Walt Hufford in his recently released dissenting opinion, which disagrees with SAB’s two draft recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its landmark draft report on hydraulic fracturing.

Hufford’s dissenting opinion maintains that EPA’s topline conclusion – that there are “no widespread, systemic impacts” to groundwater resources from hydraulic fracturing – is “clear, unambiguous, concise, and does not need to be changed or modified.”

Four of these SAB members – Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman of Missouri University of Science and Technology, John V. Fontana of Vista GeoScience, Dean N. Malouta of White Mountain Energy Consulting and Dr. Stephen W. Almond of Fritz Industries – said they will likely join in Hufford’s dissent at the teleconference on SAB’s recommendations, which held today. One member, Dr. Stephen Randtke of the University of Kansas, said that he supports the dissent but has not yet made up his mind if he will join.

As Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman explained,

“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought […] of Walt’s opinion and I would like to support his opinion completely.  Looking up the definitions in Webster of “widespread” it means over a large area or a large number of people. And I don’t think the actual data that’s in this report shows any large widespread effects […] The word systemic means of a whole system and I don’t think we saw any real data of the whole hydraulic fracturing water system that really supports a systematic failure. So I feel that Walt is correct and I actually feel like the conclusion of the first report is correct.”  (emphasis added)

Dr. Dunn-Norman later explained how her experience led to this opinion:

“I just wanted to point out, like a number of committee members here I’ve had a large number of years-experience in the industry and my opinions are formed by my experience.  And in my experience we did massive hydraulic fracturing back in the 1970s and 1980s and we just didn’t see major problems.  And if there were really some very big issues with this, we would probably have seen them by now.” (emphasis added)

Dr. Stephen Randtke pointed out later in the call,

“As I said back in October when you read this entire three paragraph introduction on page ES-6 on the major findings I have really no trouble with it. And so I’m sympathetic to Walt’s statement […] I disagree with the statement that we find that it does not clearly describe the system of interest or the definitions of systemic and widespread. Right up in the lines 11 through 16 we’re talking about above and below ground. It is talking about the systems of interest and the context and the entire HFWC in relation to hydraulic fracturing.  And then all these qualifiers we want to write in the next paragraph below that statement 22-27 they say could reflect that there’s rare impacts or there’s some uncertainty here and they’ve laid all that out.  So you know, I agree with kind of the whole statement as EPA has stated it. I think it’s a very good one.”  (emphasis added)

Dr. Stephen W. Almond agreed noting,

“I want to just join in with Shari. I don’t want to sound like we’re singing kumbaya but I’ve fractured all over the world been on literally thousands of frack jobs and I have to agree that I don’t see any widespread risk of any of the areas […]I’d just have to agree with that number one statement that Shari gave just from experience fracturing all over the world and not to say there’s not some cases that may need to be investigated like Dimock and Pavillion, etc., but overall I don’t see a widespread systemic issue here.”

Hufford’s dissenting opinion also contained three more dissenting points in addition to the one mentioned above. His second point addressed SAB’s claim that EPA’s failure to conduct two prospective case studies is a major limitation, noting that it is an overstatement and should not rise to the level of a “major finding.”  Four panel members agreed with that point, including John V. Fontana, Dr. Stephen Randtke, Dr. Shari Dunn-Norman and Dr. E. Scott Bair.

Hufford’s third dissenting point addresses SAB’s claim that there is “significant uncertainty” regarding the chemicals that are used in the fracking process.  Hufford explains this is untrue due to the considerable improvements in transparency since the report was drafted.  Dr. Stephen Randtke and Dr. Abby A. Li agreed with Hufford on this point.

Hufford’s fourth dissenting opinion centers on SAB’s suggestion that the EPA needs to include a discussion on the “significant data limitations and uncertainties.” Hufford states this is unnecessary since the information is available, although sometimes difficult to access.  This opinion secured the support of three panel members: Dr. Abby A. Li, Dr. Daniel J. Goode, and Dr. Elizabeth W. Boyer.

EID also testified at the teleconference, noting that Hufford’s dissenting opinion  agrees not only with EPA but with the overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts” to drinking water sources.


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