Sustained Outrage

Well site during active drilling to the Marcelllus Shale formation in Upshur County, West Virginia, in 2008. Photo copyright West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced it plans for a nationwide study of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process used by drillers to crack underground geologic formations and release oil and gas reserves.

EPA was “urged” to do the study by lawmakers when Congress passed the agency’s 2010 financial year budget:

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.

For much more on this, be sure to check out the story by ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten, who has been the leading reporter on this issue and tells us, among other things:

The study, announced Thursday but hinted at for months, will revisit research the agency published in 2004 , which concluded that the process of hydraulic fracturing did not pose a threat to drinking water. The 2004 report has been widely criticized, in part because the agency didn’t conduct any water tests in reaching that conclusion.