A panel of independent scientists reviewing hydraulic fracturing for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release its draft response in mid-May.
At that point, the Science Advisory Board will work to finalize the report for presentation to the EPA, according to the EPA's Washington, D.C., office this week.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process used in about 95 percent of the wells drilled in North Dakota. The process uses large volumes of water, sand and chemicals injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations.
Early this year, the EPA submitted its draft study plan on hydraulic fracturing to the independent scientists for review. The study will investigate the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
The agency, at the direction of Congress, is studying hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, to better understand any potential impacts it may have, including on groundwater.
Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, has said an EPA regulation would likely stop Bakken-Three Forks development for a year and a half to two years and production in the North Dakota oil field would decline 25 to 30 percent during that time.
As of Friday, 175 rigs were actively drilling in the N.D. oil patch, according to the N.D. Oil and Gas Division's Web site. A division of the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources, the Oil and Gas Division regulates drilling and production of oil and gas in North Dakota.
Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator, told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works earlier this year, that many states and localities regulate hydraulic fracturing and aspects of the process. She said what EPA can do is add to the knowledge by determining where there are any holes in that regulatory structure. She said federal regulations might be necessary or they might not be needed.
The North Dakota Legislature approved a bill during this session supporting the use of hydraulic fracturing as an acceptable recovery process in this state. HB 1216 was approved by the House 92-0 and by the Senate 46-1. Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill, which has an emergency clause, April 11.