The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its final research plan on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technique used to extract natural gas that critics maintain has a huge negative impact on the environment with costs passed on to the public by energy companies. Proponents of natural gas maintain that it is a cleaner fuel than oil, and the Federal government is subsidizing vehicles that use it.
The initial hydraulic fracturing research results and study findings will be released to the public in 2012. The final report will be delivered in 2014. To ensure that the study is complete and results are available to the public in a timely manner, EPA initiated some activities this summer that were supported by a Science Advisory Board – SAB – formed to ensure the agency conducted the research using a “scientifically sound” approach in what is a politically charged issue with big energy industry money pushing for business as usual.
EPA says that the final hydraulic fracturing study plan looks at the full cycle of water in hydraulic fracturing, from the acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and used water, as well as its ultimate treatment and disposal. Earlier this year, EPA announced its selection of locations for five retrospective and two prospective case studies.
The latest development follows the start of the hydraulic fracturing study last March in response to a request from Congress. Since then, the agency has held a series of public meetings across the nation to receive input from states, industry, environmental and public health groups, and individual citizens.
In a statement the EPA said that the study is in line with the priorities identified in president Obama’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.”
The so called Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future outlines a “comprehensive national energy policy,” which promotes offshore drilling for oil, alternative fuels – especially natural gas and biofuels- “safe” nuclear power, “clean coal” and energy efficiency for vehicles, homes and industry.
While most of the proposals therein will require cooperation among Democrats and Republicans to thwart the pervasive influence of money on legislators from the same special interests that have made a mockery of previous plans, Obama acted decisively in one area he controls:
The President ordered that 100% of federal fleet purchases by 2015 will be alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles – in a taxpayer-fueled bonanza for some automakers. (See President Obama outlines Energy Independence Plan, Touting Alternative Fuels, “Safe” Nuclear Power, 33% cut in Oil Imports)
EPA said the fracturing study is consistent with the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board recommendations on steps to support the safe development of natural gas resources. More information: www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing