In December, we reported on the release of a draft report from United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development on a possible link between groundwater contamination in some Wyoming wells and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) activity in the area. Now, as promised, EPA is initiating an independent assessment of the report by outside peer reviewers.

The EPA report garnered intense attention from both proponents and opponents of fracking, which extracts natural gas from underground rock formations through the pumping of a pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals that creates cracks, or fractures, in the rock, allowing the trapped gas to escape, flow into the well and up to the surface. Concerns over groundwater contamination could delay or limit fracking in New York, Pennsylvania, and a number of other states.

EPA published a Federal Register notice on January 17, 2012 that seeks nominations for experts to review the draft report as well as all public comments received during a comment period that will close on January 27. An EPA peer review contractor will select five to seven outside reviewers from among those nominated.

The agency is looking for recognized experts in a variety of fields (e.g., petroleum engineering, hydrology, geophysics, and water quality) who have no financial conflicts of interest or whose position would otherwise create an appearance of a lack of impartiality. Nominations (preferably via e-mail) must be submitted by February 17.

Paul M. Hauge is an Associate in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.