Guest post by David Middleton
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed course on Tuesday, saying in a long-awaited report that it doesn’t have enough information to make a broad conclusion about widespread threats to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing.
A government report on the safety of fracking released Tuesday deleted a draft assessment’s conclusion that the process has no national “widespread, systemic impact” on drinking water.
Instead, the EPA determined that fracking can have an impact on drinking water under certain circumstances, a change in position that drew backlash from the drilling industry.
“There are instances when hyrdofracking has impacted drinking water resources. That’s an important conclusion, an important consideration for moving forward,” said Thomas Burke, a deputy assistant administrator and science adviser at the EPA, on a call with reporters Tuesday.
The conclusion comes in the EPA’s final review of the data and research into the impact of fracking on drinking water. The agency’s 1,200-page report, released Tuesday, is mandated by Congress and was five years in the making.
Fracking is the controversial process by which high-pressured water and chemicals are injected into the ground to break apart shale rock and release the oil and gas stored in it.
A draft version of the EPA’s report, released in June 2015, concluded that fracking has not “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
But the final report deleted that conclusion. Instead, it said fracking could impact drinking water throughout the drilling process. Authors pointed to water withdrawals in areas with low water supplies, chemical or water spills, the injection of fracking fluids into wells with “inadequate mechanical integrity” and fracking fluids entering the groundwater supply.
The top-line findings of the study changed after input from the EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board, which, in August, insisted the agency quantify the draft’s conclusion. Burke said EPA scientists could not do that and pulled the conclusion from the report.
“It is beyond absurd for the administration to reverse course on its way out the door,” said American Petroleum Institute Upstream Director Erik Milito.
“The science and data clearly demonstrate that hydraulic fracturing does not lead to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources. Unfortunately, consumers have witnessed five years and millions of dollars expended only to see conclusion based in science changed to a conclusion based in political ambiguity.”
Energy In Depth, an industry-funded group launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that despite changes in the central conclusion, the report still “blows apart the anti-fracking campaign’s most common claim, namely that hydraulic fracturing is polluting groundwater all across America.”
But, Katie Brown, a writer and spokeswoman for the group, said the “EPA did its best to inject politics into this good news by inflating concerns about groundwater, no doubt as a parting thank-you gift to the ‘Keep It In the Ground’ movement.”
Note to the The Hill: Fracking is not a “controversial process.” Most oil and gas wells are fracked in some way. It is a common well completion procedure. The process has been in common use for over 60 years.
The EPA “Science Advisory Board” has employed the Gasland canard…
[F]racking could impact drinking water throughout the drilling process.
Fracking is a well completion operation. Frack jobs are performed in the well completion procedure. This is the only phase of the “drilling process” in which frack jobs are performed. As such, it cannot “impact drinking water throughout the drilling process.” In the Gasland canard, “the drilling process” includes everything from wellsite preparation, to drilling, to completion, to production, to wastewater disposal, to plugging & abandonment, to wellsite reclamation… And then any pollution in the entire process is attributed to fracking…
Fracking – when taken to mean the entire process of developing an oil or gas well – has conclusively been linked to water contamination by federal and state environmental authorities many times.
It defies all credibility for an advisory board to reverse the conclusions of a 1,200 page report, on a whim, just prior to publication… particularly if the reversal is based on the bastardization of the word “fracking.”
Scott Pruitt can’t get to Washington DC soon enough and this needs to start on January 20, 2017…
I will write a sequel to this post after I have reviewed the EPA’s full report.
I downloaded the “1,200 page report”… 50 pages of Executive Summary, 666 pages of report and 572 pages of appendices. This is from the Executive Summary table of contents…
The only section dealing directly with fracking (the operation) is “Well Injection.”