In a February 5, 2014 memorandum to Nancy Stoner, U.S. EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) stated that it is starting preliminary research on the EPA’s and the States’ ability to manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). The memorandum’s primary purpose is to kick off this project and to confirm the objective and strategy of the evaluation. The objective is to evaluate how the EPA and the States have used their existing authorities to regulate fracking impacts to water sources. The corresponding strategy is to determine and evaluate what regulatory authority is available to the EPA and the States, identify potential threats to water resources from fracking, and evaluate the EPA’s and States’ responses to them.
The proposed plan is to gather information from States with substantial fracking activity, and to contemporaneously contact environmental groups, industry groups, and gas and oil producers. The anticipated benefits of this project include improved preventative and responsive measures and improved coordination with the EPA, States, and industrial sector to ensure that water resources are adequately protected from the impacts of fracking.