On August 11, 2016, EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) challenged EPA’s recent determination that hydraulic fracking mechanisms did not lead to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”  In June 2015, EPA released its hydraulic fracking study, formally known as “Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources (External Review Draft),” performed by an independent panel of various groups that included academic scientists, industry and environmental groups.  As previously discussed on the Hydraulic Fracking Blog, EPA determined that hydraulic fracking did not largely impact drinking water in the U.S.

But in its 180-page report, a majority of the SAB challenged EPA’s methodology in forming this conclusion.  SAB asserted that EPA failed to gather adequate evidence to support its study:

“The SAB finds that the EPA did not support quantitatively its conclusion about lack of evidence for widespread, systemic impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and did not clearly describe the system(s) of interest (e.g., groundwater, surface water), the scale of impacts (i.e., local or regional), nor the definitions of ‘systemic’ and ‘widespread.’”

The Board asked EPA to amend its report and gather data from other sources.  Notably, SAB asked EPA to explain the absence of evidence in its study, including its omission of prospective case studies and status updates on investigations into the impact of hydraulic fracking in Dimock, PA, Pavillion, WY, and Parker County, TX.

Despite these critiques, several Board members dissented.  Four Board members found no issue with EPA’s conclusion that hydraulic fracking has no “widespread, systematic impact” on U.S. drinking water resources.  In their written dissent, these members argued that EPA’s study was “clear, unambiguous, concise, and does not need to be changed or modified.”

EPA has not disclosed how it intends to respond to the SAB report.