In a letter dated October 16, 2012 to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA, House Representatives Ralph Hall, Andy Harris, M.D., and Dana Rohrabacher, urged the EPA to engage a more diverse panel to review the EPA’s Progress Report. The Representatives spelled out three main concerns:
(1) the past action by the EPA failed to engage representatives with applied technical experience in hydraulic fracturing in the ad hoc advisory panel who reviewed the EPA’s Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources;
(2) potential bias of those selected to the EPA’s ad hoc advisory panel who reviewed the EPA’s Draft Plan; and
(3) the ability of the public to participate in the ad hoc advisory panel’s review of the Progress Report, which includes providing adequate timing for such participation.
Congress established the Science Advisory Board (SAB) to advise the EPA on technical matters. The SAB is charged with selecting those who will be included in the ad hoc advisory panel. The EPA follows a Peer Review Handbook that provides guidance to the EPA when selecting panelist and the SAB has its own guidance document. The Handbook states that the EPA should avoid selecting panelist who have “taken sides” or who “may have an appearance of lack of impartiality,” and the SAB guidance document provides that a “balanced panel is characterized by inclusion of the necessary domains of knowledge…”
The Representatives point out in their letter, however, that the Draft Plan ad hoc advisory panel included participants who received grants from the EPA, and at least one panelist published an article that demonstrated “an appearance of lack of impartiality” (one alleged sin is that he referenced the famed film Gasland in support of his claims). Moreover, the Draft Plan ad hoc advisory panel did not include a panelist who had any hydraulic fracturing experience. These shortcomings clearly fall short of the EPA’s and SAB’s own guidelines.
The Representatives’ suggestions should be well taken by the EPA. If the EPA leaves out key representatives from the hydraulic fracturing industry from its ad hoc advisory panel on the Progress Report, the EPA runs the risk of its findings being undercut on the backend. What is the harm in engaging a wide variety of panelists who will bring their own unique perspectives to the table? The hydraulic fracturing industry is awaiting the release of the Progress Report with breath that is bated; as its effects will be felt nationwide. The house Committee’s request to the EPA makes sense and hopefully, will be successful.