Vengosh to Testify on Environmental Impacts of Energy Production at Oct. 18 Congressional Briefing

October 15, 2012

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

DURHAM, NC – Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, will present expert testimony, “Environmental Consequences of Past and Future Energy Production in the United States,” at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., on October 18.

He is one of five experts invited to present testimony at the briefing, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

The Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC) organizes the nonpartisan scientific briefing annually to inform federal policymakers about the benefits ecosystems provide to society.  This year’s briefing examines the role of ecosystem science in water security, food security, energy security and disease transmission.

Vengosh has published numerous peer-reviewed studies on the water-quality impacts of coal ash residue, hydraulic fracturing and shale gas production, and mountaintop coal mining.  His team’s work has led to the development of diagnostic tools that scientists can use to identify and trace the sources and pathways of contaminants in the environment.  Their most recent study, which appeared this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, documents high levels of arsenic, selenium and other coal-combustion residue contaminants in the sediment of North Carolina lakes and rivers located downstream from power plants’ unregulated coal ash ponds.  

In his Oct. 18 testimony, Vengosh will review scientific evidence about water pollution from coal mining and combustion in the United States over the past century, and explain the primary environmental issues associated with shale gas drilling, which many experts believe will play an increasingly important role as a source of domestic energy in the coming century. 

“While low-cost coal and new shale gas reserves are vital for enhancing U.S. energy security, the direct and indirect effects on the environment might have significant long-term implications for ecological systems and human health,” he says.  “Hopefully, my testimony will help lawmakers gain a deeper understanding of these issues as they work to establish energy policies to guide our nation in the coming years.”