Pennsylvania Environmental Agency releases sampling and quality assurance plans for hydraulic fracturing radiation study

In our February 4th blog post, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas Address Radioactivity Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing Operations, we discussed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“DEP”) comprehensive radiation study of oil and gas development. On April 3, 2013, the DEP released additional details regarding the study, including sampling and quality assurance plans.

The DEP’s released updated scope of work for the study proposes to focus the study on quantifying technologically enhanced radioactive materials in ambient air, drill cuttings (vertical and horizontal), natural gas, natural gas processing pipes and equipment, waste water generated on drilling sties, sludge resulting from the processing of waste water from the well pad development process, and landfill leachate.

The field sampling plan explains the types of samples that the DEP will collect, as well as their locations and methods of analysis. The quality assurance plan details how the agency will collect, transport, and analyze the samples.

The plans go on to show exactly how the DEP is conducting its study of (1) the transportation, storage, and disposal of drilling wastes, and (2) the radioactivity levels in flowback waters, treatment solids, drill cuttings, and drilling equipment. After Pennsylvania Governor Corbett directed the DEP to undertake the study in January, the DEP sought peer review of the sampling and quality assurance plans and expects sampling to begin sometime this month.

The site surveys checklist also provided by the DEP includes the estimated number of facilities tested, as well as the estimated total number of samples, solids, and liquids for the study. In conjunction with this study, the DEP will continue to maintain its statewide monitoring network that protects the public from exposure to radiation at unsafe levels.

This post was prepared by Kristen Hulbert ( or 713 651 5303) from Fulbright's Environmental Law Practice Group.