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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

UCS publishes superb new report on the fracking debate

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy has published a superb – and blunt - new report, "Toward an Evidence-Based Fracking Debate: Science, Democracy, and Community Right to Know in Unconventional Oil and Gas Development," that examines the current state of the science on fracking risk as well as the barriers that prevent citizens from learning what they need to know to help their communities make evidence-based decisions.

The Executive Summary encapsulates the situation succinctly: 
(T)he dizzying pace of unconventional oil and gas development has limited the time available for researchers to adequately study its impacts. Scientific unknowns about some of the impacts of development have converged with a lack of comprehensive legal requirements and interference in the science and policy processes by special interests.
The confluence of conflicted politicians, biased or unavailable science, and misinformation has produced a noisy information landscape that too often hinders citizens seeking reliable information and erects hurdles for communities seeking evidence-based decisions…
The report discusses these barriers—a lack of transparency, misinformation and interference in developing the science need to fully understand risks, inadequate governance at both state and Federal levels, legal loopholes and limitations, and a noisy public dialogue—and offers strong recommendations to help overcome them.

For example, the report calls for three essential components that would go a long way toward transparency and providing the building blocks for a strong scientific foundation to develop needed understanding:   
  • Baseline studies of air, water, and soil quality before drilling begins;
  • Monitoring studies during and after extraction activities;
  • The chemical composition, volume, and concentration of the chemicals used in their operations.

UCS will hold a webinar on October 17  to present the report, and its fracking information toolkit. Register for the webinar through this link.

The report is a notable addition to a growing body of work by UCS on unconventional oil and gas development. It accompanies the toolkit and videos from its July, 2013 forum on fracking held in Los Angeles in which I participated.

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