Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Committee Members Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson expressing concerns about transparency and balance in regards to an upcoming review of the Agency's study on hydraulic fracturing. The letter requests detailed information related to EPA's selection of scientific experts to serve on a Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel to review the Agency's study, titled, Progress Report: Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources, due out later this year.
The letter outlines concerns with previous panels that reviewed this study, in particular a 2010 SAB ad hoc panel that failed to include experts with applied technical experience in hydraulic fracturing, or adequate state, local, and tribal representation. The letter calls on the Agency to "consider balance, expertise, independence, and public participation requirements" in its selection of the 2012 panel, and articulates several concerns with the panel review process, including lack of stakeholder input and the appearance of a lack of impartiality.
"Given the importance of this study and the potential implications it could have for oil and gas production in the U.S., we urge EPA to ensure selection of a balanced panel with relevant technical expertise, and one that does not unnecessarily exclude nominees with relevant (and, in fact, essential) industry experience," the letter states.
Further, the Members stress that exclusion of panelists with industry experience "runs counter to the SAB's own guidance document" and ask the Agency to outline what steps will be taken to "ensure that persons with technical expertise and operation experience in hydraulic fracturing will be included on the 2012 panel." The letter requests EPA provide information explaining how the Agency determines whether or not potential reviewers have predetermined opinions about the subject under review, and what criteria the Agency uses to assess impartiality. The letter further requests EPA provide a timeframe for the release of the final report and to clarify whether or not the review of the progress report will occur prior to its public release.
Last month, Chairman Hall and Committee members introduced legislation to reform the EPA's SAB and its sub-panels. The bill, H.R. 6564, would strengthen public participation, improve the process for selecting expert advisors, expand transparency requirements, and limit non-scientific policy advice.