GOP slams EPA on ‘fracking’ as committee leader weighs bill

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David Dzombak, who heads a hydraulic fracturing panel of the EPA’s outside Science Advisory Board, said while the study is not providing a broad “quantitative risk assessment,” the entire thing is nonetheless in a “risk framework.”

A senior EPA official defended the overall study.

“We are pursuing this work with the best available science and the highest level of transparency,” said Fred Hauchman, director of the EPA’s Office of Science Policy. He said the research will help enable production of oil and gas in a way that’s protective of human health and the environment.

Prepared testimony from the witnesses at the hearing is available here.

More broadly, Republicans at the hearing slammed what they called multiple, overzealous EPA attempts to link hydraulic fracturing to water pollution in probes that are not part of the broad nationwide study.

Several zeroed in on EPA’s June decision not to complete or seek peer review of a 2011 draft study that drew preliminary connections between water contamination and fracking in the Pavillion, Wyo., area.

“EPA’s recent announcement that it is walking away from its attempt to link hydraulic fracturing to groundwater issues in Wyoming is the most recent example of the agency employing what I consider a shoot first, ask questions later policy towards unconventional oil-and-gas production,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), the chairman of the Environment Subcommittee.

Hydraulic fracturing critics contend that chemicals used in the fracking process and escaped methane are threats to groundwater. They say fracking’s expansion, which is enabling a U.S. oil-and-gas production boom, is proceeding without adequate safeguards.

The Interior Department is crafting rules that would require disclosure of chemicals and address well integrity for fracking that occurs on federal and Indian lands.

However, the U.S. fracking boom has occurred in large extent on state and private lands in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere.