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EPA Selects Sites in Louisiana and Texas for National Study on Hydraulic Fracturing

Release Date: 06/23/2011
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Joe Hubbard at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(DALLAS – June 23, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, in keeping with the Administration’s focus on ensuring that domestic resources are leveraged safely and responsibly, announced the next steps in its congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study. EPA has identified seven case studies to help inform the assessment of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Two of the case study sites are in Louisiana and Texas.
Natural gas plays a key role in our nation's energy future. EPA is working closely with other federal partners to ensure that this important resource can be developed safely.

"This is an important part of a process that will use the best science to help us better understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water," said Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development. "We've met with community members, state experts and industry and environmental leaders to choose these case studies. This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do: ensure that the health of their communities and families is protected."

The two sites selected in the region were the Haynesville Shale, primarily in Northwestern Louisiana and the Barnett Shale in North Texas. In the Haynesville Shale area EPA will monitor the hydraulic fracturing process before construction and throughout the process of drilling. While in the Barnett Shale area, EPA will assess existing sites for possible drinking water contamination and attempt to determine possible pathways for contamination to reach water resources.

The sites were selected following extensive input from stakeholders, including the public, local and state officials, industry, and environmental organizations.

The collected information will include a literature review, data from state governments, industry and communities, laboratory work and computer modeling. The materials will also allow a comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to flow into the well and be recovered.

The Barnett Shale is part of the Fort Worth Basin and covers approximately 24 counties in the North Texas area. It is the area where the technology of hydraulic fracturing with water-based fluids in shale gas formations was pioneered, and as such is the most developed shale gas formation in the world, with approximately 15,000 production wells in the formation.

The Haynesville Shale is more than 10,000 feet deep and encompasses parts of Northwestern Louisiana, Southwest Arkansas and East Texas. Selection of this site was based on multiple factors, including geologic and geographic diversity and availability.

To ensure the Agency maintains the current timeline for the study, the EPA will begin field work in some of the selected regions this summer.

For a copy of the draft study plan and additional information: http://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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