The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Fracking Advisory Panel Needs Industry at the Table

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 28, 2012

EPA is taking nominations for membership on a special Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel to advise the agency on a key progress report on hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. Certainly, safe water supplies are critical to continued public confidence in fracking, which is why our industry should be part of this SAB panel – providing expertise and technical know-how as it does its work.

API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin made the case in a letter to EPA earlier this month:

“It is imperative that the panel include individuals experienced in upstream oil and natural gas operations which are unique in engineering, scale, distribution, materials, and timing to provide an accurate representation of this highly technical issue and its proper context for this review. Industry has developed and implemented safe practices in the oil field and incorporated those into API’s standard setting and research activities since the 1920s.”

That’s a reference to a comprehensive set of operational standards that industry has developed for safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing operations – used by a number of states to develop their own effective regulatory regimes. These standards address everything from ensuring secure well casings to proper water use to community engagement – developed by industry experts, based on professional field experience.

It’s a perspective the SAB panel needs as it delves into hydraulic fracturing issues. Unfortunately, EPA has declined such expertise in the past. Durbin:

“From our perspective, critical opportunities to leverage the tremendous knowledge and experience base offered by industry have been repeatedly missed.”

For example, no industry experts were selected for SAB’s hydraulic review panel announced in January 2011. Instead, while members were technical experts in their respective fields, most had virtually no relevant knowledge or understanding of oil and natural gas operations in general and hydraulic fracturing in particular related to their respective areas of expertise. Durbin:

“API, therefore, strongly recommends that the ad hoc Panel members have direct experience working in the modern oil and natural gas industry. … We note that industry representatives have a long record of valuable, unbiased participation in many other SAB Communities and Panels. It is those very individuals, with extensive field experience and first-hand knowledge of the techniques used in drilling and completions, who are critical to the examination of the very specialized processes and the research addressing those processes.”

In addition, Durbin wrote, candidates selected from academia and the regulatory and consulting arenas should have direct knowledge oil and gas issues, as well as working experience. Other members should include knowledgeable stakeholders, including representatives of organizations such as the Groundwater Protection Council or the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, he wrote.

EPA needs expert advice upon which to build credible analysis. Industry has those experts. They have the experience. The Science Advisory Board should take advantage of industry’s knowledge base to form a balanced panel for this important task.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.