US Committee Hearing - Hydraulic Fracturing Technology

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US Committee Hearing - Hydraulic Fracturing Technology

Postby HVPA_research » Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:17 pm

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Full Committee Hearing - Hydraulic Fracturing Technology
2318 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | May 11, 2011 10:00am - 2:00pm

Link to this document
came to HVPA by email from our friends in the NSW Dept. of Planning - presumably as a gentle reminder that "RESISTANCE TO FRACKING IS USELESS! ". We should study this material in some detail because,no doubt, we are going to hear a lot about this committee in the near future.

To someone not familiar with the more Byzantine forms of politics in Washington it may appear that the real purpose of this committee is to rein-in the current US federal Environment Protection Agency investigation into hydraulic fracturing. What else can one conclude when the Chairman introduces the hearings in the Opening Statements thus:

Unfortunately, objectivity is not EPA’s strong suit, and its draft study plan is yet another example of this Administration’s desire to stop domestic energy development through regulation.

The study intends to identify the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, without ever taking into consideration the probability that such an effect may occur, or the ability of industry best practices, state laws and direct oversight, and existing Federal laws to manage the risk associated with hydraulic fracturing. No regulation or law can totally eliminate risk. A study that does not quantify environmental risks using standard practices is useless to regulators and risk managers and as such, is a waste of taxpayer money.

But one may be wrong. Maybe the purpose of these hearings is simply to help EPA to see the problems related to hydraulic fracturing "the right" way. Perhaps we should call on our American friends to analyse the situation for us.

]Hearing Chapter

EPA Regulations and Studies Related to Hydraulic Fracturing
Prior to 1997, EPA considered hydraulic fracturing to be a well stimulation technique associated with production and therefore not subject to the regulatory requirements of Underground Injection Control (UIC) under the SDWA. This position was legally challenged, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane wells was indeed subject to the SDWA and UIC regulations under Alabama’s UIC program in 1997.

In response, in 1999 EPA began to study hydraulic fracturing used in coalbed methane reservoirs and evaluate potential impacts to underground sources of drinking water. In its 2004 report “Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs” (, EPA concluded that injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coalbed methane wells poses little or not threat to [Underground Sources of Drinking Water] and USDWs and does not justify additional study at this time.”(23)
In the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-88), EPA was directed to carry out a second study on hydraulic fracturing, in accordance with the following report language:

“Hydraulic Fracturing Study.--The conferees urge the Agency to carry out a study on 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. The conferees expect the study to be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process that will ensure the validity and accuracy of the data. The Agency shall consult with other Federal agencies as well as appropriate State and interstate regulatory agencies in carrying out the study, which should be prepared in accordance with the Agency's quality assurance principles.”

On February 8, 2011, EPA released its draft study plan for public comment and review by its Science Advisory Board (SAB) (24). EPA has stated that, “the overall purpose of the study is to understand the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal.”(25)
The draft study plan includes the following fundamental research areas and questions:
 Water Acquisition: How might large volume water withdrawals from ground and surface water impact drinking water resources?
 Chemical Mixing: What are the possible impacts of releases of hydraulic fracturing fluids on drinking water resources?
 Well Injection: What are the possible impacts of the injection and fracturing process on drinking water resources?
 Flowback and Produced Water: What are the possible impacts of releases of flowback and produced water on drinking water resources?
 Wastewater Treatment and Waste Disposal: What are the possible impacts of inadequate treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewaters on drinking water resources?

On April 28, 2011, the SAB released a draft of its report on the EPA draft plan. (26) Deliberations on this draft response are expected to be completed in May or June of 2011, after which will review and consider revisions to its study plan and then immediately begin the study. EPA plans to release preliminary results of this study by late 2012 with a final report completed by 2014.


(23) Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed May 4, 2011.
(25) Ibid.

]Opening Statements

Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX)


Panel I

Ms. Elizabeth Ames Jones,Commissioner, Texas Railroad Commission
From the Summary provides it is obvious that things are sweet in Texas. As we say here "No worries!"
In closing, I understand there is a broad concern in the public related to hydraulic fracturing. I am not here to belittle or to disregard that concern. Rather, I am here to provide confidence to the public that these activities can be, and in Texas are, safe, secure and sufficiently regulated. Furthermore, the production increase due to these operations is a blessing to our nation, and we should be proud of the technological innovations discovered and perfected in America, more specifically, in Texas.

The truth is that America and Texas benefit substantially due to the practice of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Any stories of environmental damage or contamination of drinking water from hydraulic fracturing are fairy tales.

Take note Josh Fox!

Dr. Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

There was no summary, but like a reasonable "let us proceed cautiously'" contribution
Our paramount concern is protecting our ground and surface waters. As a result, we are proceeding in a cautious and deliberative manner. We have issued no permits, and we do not intend to allow drilling and fracking in Maryland until the issues are resolved to our satisfaction.

Mr. Harold Fitch, Michigan State Geologist; Director, Office of Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; and Board Member, Ground Water Protection Council
A more searching contributions from the Michigan geologist:
Last September the GWPC began a project in cooperation with the IOGCC to develop a national registry of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The result is a website called Frac Focus,, launched on April 11. The U.S. Department of Energy provided funding support for the project. The initiative provides oil and gas exploration and production companies with a single-source means to publicly disclose the chemical additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Identification of chemical additives. A growing number of public interest groups are advocating for public disclosure of chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluid. A few states are taking actions to require disclosure to a state regulatory agency, although not to the general public. Under federal law information on chemicals and potential health and environmental effects must be provided in Material Safety Data Sheets (or MSDSs), which are posted wherever the additives are stored, transported, or used. However, the chemical identities and concentrations of some of the chemicals are exempted from disclosure as trade secrets. Those details must be provided to medical personnel in the event of an emergency. In Michigan we believe the MSDSs provide enough information to respond to and track spills. We are working to make that information more readily available to the public./quote]
In conclusion, we believe the laws and rules in Michigan and other states effectively protect water and other natural resources as well as public health and safety from potential adverse effects of hydraulic fracturing. Michigan is typical of the oil and gas producing states in taking a proactive approach to address large-scale hydraulic fracturing as well as other issues associated with deep shale gas development. The GWPC will continue to assist states with their regulatory needs for the purpose of protecting water, our most vital natural resource.

Dr. Cal Cooper, Manager, Worldwide Environmental Technologies, Greenhouse Gas, and Hydraulic Fracturing, Apache Corporation
Nice presentation from a leading fracking company. The ending is heartwarming:
... It is true that there is simmering distrust between scientists with different perspectives, but that is probably healthy at some level. Government science sometimes seems to encourage and expose our worst tendencies, especially when non-scientific issues may be the root cause of polarization. Ultimately science is objective. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that truth. Hydraulic fracturing is far too important to be dismissed for the wrong reasons.

So, it's all between the industry and government experts - ordinary people, who actually live in the fracked country are not inteligent enough to have a say in this controversy.

Dr. Michael Economides, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Houston
A more entertaining contribution from Texas here:
It took many years for industry to realize that, by pumping hydraulic pressure into a subsurface hydrocarbon filled rock, one could create a crack that would make it much easier for oil, or gas, to flow out of the rock. Today virtually all wells require this process to produce commercial quantities of gas (or oil). And, as shown here, it has taken industry over 20 years to figure out that horizontal wellbores combined with hydraulic fracturing are the key to producing commercial quantities of natural gas from shale formations.

This does not apply in Australia, here we are assured by the CSG industry that they never, "well hardly ever" frack!
Despite EPA having conducted several historical reviews of hydraulic fracturing, and clearing the process as recently as 2004, cap-and-trade proponents in Congress directed a new study in 2010. However, this time the internet tools of facebook, privately funded documentaries such as Gasland, and the national media have fueled a frenzy of anti-fracturing sentiment previously unknown.

So the EPA initiated a study of hydraulic fracturing in 2010, ostensibly to study the potential effects of hydraulic fracture on drinking water. Their study was issued through their own Office of Research, their hand-picked Science advisory council, and ultimately through the Hydraulic Fracturing Review Study Panel – a group of academics also selected by the EPA. The study is currently awaiting feedback from the Study Panel.

Now, the mandate to EPA was to employ a transparent, peer review process in this study of hydraulic fracturing. However, as I will show with a few examples, this process has been anything but that. For sure many of the 22-member Hydraulic Fracturing Study Panel are experts in their own area of groundwater, public health, etc., but almost all have no experience in hydraulic fracturing and no understanding of current industry practices. The panel excludes outright some of the most highly regarded individuals in the technical area of hydraulic fracturing; presumably being an expert on the subject immediately condemns one as an industry shrill. And the lack of industry representation on the Panel is telling.

Most panel members simply could not distinguish (or probably would not even care) whether any observed contamination could be the result of faulty well construction (a rare but real possibility) or some entirely mythical “subsurface communication” as suggested in silly documentaries like Gasland. Wellbore construction and the fracturing processes are not at all the same things, yet lack any separate commentary under the header “well injection’ in the flawed study plan. Only newly minted Ivy PhD’s in public policy (likely those who wrote this plan), or those pre-disposed against the production of any natural gas, would fail to make this distinction.

To somebody that understands (and believes in) the importance of natural gas to the country’s welfare it is clear that only those predisposed against any hydraulic fracturing could be pleased with this study. The EPA panel has served their role in sanctifying this EPA hydraulic study plan, positioning researchers and other so-called experts to legitimize a clearly illegitimate and ideologically loaded attack on “fracking”, done by people that are predisposed against any natural gas production.
Rarely have intentions been more transparent.


Panel II

Dr. Paul Anastas, Administrator, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Now what EPA has to say:
In conclusion, I want to assure the members of this committee and others that this study will be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process in consultation with other Federal agencies as well as appropriate State and interstate regulatory agencies.
I look forward to working with the Committee to address current and emerging environmental problems that will help our Agency protect the environment and human health. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today./quote]
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