Republican Congressional Leaders Question Objectivity of Shale Gas Study

In a letter dated November 30, 2012, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure the objectivity of a study on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing and other shale development activities.

The committee members are concerned that the scientific objectivity of the HHS is being “subverted” because of, among other things, the alleged predisposed bias against hydraulic fracturing of the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the agency tasked with this study. 

The Director has previously stated that shale gas development “has been a disaster in some communities,” that fracturing fluid contains “potentially hazardous chemicals,” and that work near drilling sites “is turning up data of concern.” 

Further, in prior studies related to oil and gas activities, the ATSDR has referred to naturally occurring groundwater substances as “contaminants” and has failed to consider all data available from other sources or consult with state regulatory and public health officials, such as the United States Geological Survey, Groundwater Protection Council, and state environmental and/or oil and gas agencies.

The committee members want the HHS to adopt an approach based on sound scientific principles and analysis and to submit the report to a robust peer review process.

Seeking transparency, the Committee re-urged its September 12, 2012 request for a CDC briefing so that “Congress, the states, [and] the public” can be included in the reporting process and hold the CDC to “high standards of scientific objectivity and validity.”

Read the November 30, 2012 letter from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This article was prepared by Barclay R. Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) from Fulbright's Energy Practice.