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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pacific Institute paper on fracking and water a good read

The Pacific Institute conducted interviews with a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from state and federal agencies, academia, industry, environmental groups, and community-based organizations from across the United States and has issued a paper: Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction.

The paper is focused on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional natural gas extraction on water resources.

The water-related concerns identified by the interviewees included water
withdrawals, groundwater contamination associated with well drilling and production, wastewater management, truck traffic and its impacts on water quality, surface spills and leaks, and stormwater management.

The paper provides a brief but excellent overview of these issues and comes to some not surprising conclusions:

  • A lack of credible and comprehensive data and information is a major impediment to identify or clearly assess the key water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and to develop sound policies to minimize those risks. 
  • There are limited number of peer-reviewed, scientific studies on the process and its environmental impacts.  As a result, the discourse around the issue is largely driven by opinion. This hinders a comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental and public health risks and identification of strategies to minimize these risks.
  • The dialog about hydraulic fracturing has been marked by confusion and obfuscation due to a lack of clarity about the terms used to characterize the process. Additional work is needed to clarify terms and definitions associated with hydraulic fracturing to support more fruitful and informed dialog and to develop appropriate energy, water, and environmental policy.

More data.  More scientific research and analysis.  Common terms.  Dialogue. Transparency.  All are in in short supply. All are urgently needed.  All are essential to separating fracking fact from fiction.

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