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Thursday, March 20, 2014

How much more do we want to learn about the environmental effects of fracking?

When it comes to the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, we should go where the data leads. The problem, as frequent readers of this blog know, is that that data has been mostly sparse, or at least conflicting. From impacts to groundwater, drinking water, air quality, and methane emissions; to public health, landscape impacts, and cumulative impacts; the data, so far, has been inadequate. We simply don't know enough.

With that thought in mind, this item from The National Journal’s excellent Energy Edge newsletter was encouraging, because it can help fill the knowledge vacuum:
How much more does Congress want to learn about the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing?
The next round of appropriations decisions could provide a hint. The U.S. Geological Survey has posted new details of its budget request to Congress.
Among the items: A request to boost spending on fracking research by $8.3 million.
See pages B-23 to B-28 here for information on USGS’ very thrifty fracking research agenda.

The USGS, in my experience, does excellent, rigorous scientific work, much like their counterparts and my former colleagues at Pennsylvania’s DCNR. I have great respect for both groups of professionals. They are resources to which decision makers should turn - but often don't - for expert analysis and advice.

USGS' research agenda doesn't propose to answer all of the questions around fracking, but it would help to answer important ones.  

How much does Congress - and by virtue of USGS' public reporting, how much more do we - want to learn about the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing? The answer to that question is of central importance to our energy and environmental future.



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