Earlier this week, Energy In Depth testified at the Science Advisory Board (SAB) Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel’s public teleconference.
As background, the SAB hydraulic fracturing panel recently released its draft recommendations on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) landmark draft assessment of fracking and groundwater. In the document, the SAB suggests that the agency change the language of its primary finding that hydraulic fracturing has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources” as well as a number of its top line findings.
I’m Dr. Katie Brown and I’m the Team Lead and spokesperson for Energy In Depth, which is a research and education program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).
If a scientific advisory body is going to recommend that a research finding be changed, as the SAB has done, it should be making that request with scientific evidence to support it. But not once in the over 100 pages of recommendations does the SAB point to any evidence that contradicts EPA’s finding that hydraulic fracturing has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water sources. Even more confounding is that the SAB seems to contradict itself several times in its report, which raises some questions.
First, SAB asks EPA to change its top line conclusion based on what it, itself, calls “outlier” events – but by definition, if an event is an “outlier,” that means it’s neither widespread nor systemic.
Second, SAB asks EPA to take back its finding that the number of cases where fracking has impacted drinking water is “small.” But here again, SAB itself admits that these impacts are “infrequent,” which isn’t any different from saying the number of cases was small.
Third, SAB asks EPA to change its finding that fracturing fluid spills haven’t impacted ground water, because the EPA hasn’t provided, quote, “evidence of absence of impact.” In other words, SAB is asking EPA essentially to prove a negative, which I think most neutral observers would concede is a pretty tough standard to meet.
The bottom line is that if there were any evidence to suggest widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing, it would have been uncovered during the past decade of extensive research, and the SAB would certainly be able to cite it in its recommendations.
Instead, there is nothing in SAB’s recommendations that suggests EPA’s finding of no “widespread, systemic” groundwater impacts from hydraulic fracturing is incorrect. So – contrary to its intention – SAB has actually produced a document that affirms EPA’s conclusion.
SAB should maintain its role as a scientific body and base its recommendations on the science and the facts.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.