House Democrats to EPA: Frac Study Should Be Based on Science, Not Hyperbole

Letter to EPA from 22 House Democrats urges “systematic, scientific” approach to studying HF

WASHINGTON – Any agency-led study of a key technology for safely accessing America’s abundant reserves of shale gas should use a “systematic, scientific approach that ensures transparency, accuracy and validity.” That’s the message that 22 Democratic members of the U.S. House delivered to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson this week, as her agency reportedly prepares to undertake its second comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing in five years.

“In some ways, a letter like this wouldn’t seem necessary,” said Lee Fuller, director of Energy In Depth, a coalition of independent oil and gas producers formed earlier this year. “EPA should understand its mandate, and be prepared to execute it in a way that ensures its course of study is science-based, peer-reviewed, and informed by the knowledge and experience of experts in the field.

“We have every reason to believe it does, and it will,” added Fuller. “This letter simply articulates that expectation, and more important, shows that congressional support for the safe and responsible development of American shale gas is not a partisan affair.”

After five years of exhaustive research on the environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing, EPA released its study on the subject in 2004, concluding that the half-century-old technology “poses little or no threat” to drinking water supplies. Although no material changes to the underlying technology have been made since then, activities in opposition to fracturing have increased substantially among anti-energy activists, who have rightly identified and targeted the technique as the key to unlocking massive, job-creating natural gas resources from shale deposits all across the country.

The letter to Administrator Jackson, signed by lead-author Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) and 21 of his Democratic colleagues in the House, comes on the heels of recently passed appropriations legislation calling on EPA to re-examine several key issues surrounding the use and performance of hydraulic fracturing. An electronic copy of the letter can be downloaded HERE; its text is available below.

December 15, 2009

Dear Administrator Jackson:

The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010, signed into law on October 30, 2009, contains funding for carrying out the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) critical mission to protect human health and the environment. Pursuant to that mission, the conference committee’s report requested that the EPA conduct a study of hydraulic fracturing.

Specifically, the report states that the EPA is to “carry out a study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, using a credible approach that relies on the best available science, as well as independent sources of information.” We believe that this study should use a systematic, scientific approach that ensures transparency, accuracy and validity, so as to allow the EPA and Congress to properly evaluate the environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing.

We recommend that the EPA follow several key criteria. First, the study should rely on accepted quality assurance guidelines. The EPA should develop a reasonable and transparent study design consistent with its 2004 study and have the results properly peer-reviewed by qualified experts in accordance with standard practices. The study should also draw on the knowledge and experience of experts in hydraulic fracturing, including those in the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, and state regulatory agencies. The EPA should make the study’s results available to interested members of the public for review and comment prior to finalizing them.

Second, the EPA should fully take into account previous studies on hydraulic fracturing by federal or state governmental agencies, councils, commissions or advisory committees. For example, given the significant effort associated with the 2004 EPA study, the agency should consider that study’s conclusions on hydraulic fracturing and utilize a phased approach when determining whether additional review is warranted.

Last and most importantly, the study should be based on well-recognized principles of risk assessment to determine whether individuals are exposed to substances in the hydraulic fracturing process at levels considered harmful to human health.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you to develop America’s energy resources in the most environmentally-sound manner possible.


Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas)                         Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)       Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas)                    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)                    Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.)

Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho)                       Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas)

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas)                            Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.)

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas)                  Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)                     Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.)

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)                      Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas)

Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.)                       Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas)

Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.)                       Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas)

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