EPA fails to link fracking to water contamination for the third time

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is dropping its plans to issue a report on whether hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination in Wyoming.

The agency said it will no longer have outside experts review that theory.

This marks the third time that the EPA has failed to link hydraulic fracturing — more commonly known as fracking — with groundwater contamination, a major environmentalist objection to the drilling practice.

“The EPA has been on a witch hunt to shut down hydraulic fracturing, but yet again the evidence has determined it is safe,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “All too often we see the Agency using flawed science for political purposes, but this is EPA’s third strike on hydraulic fracturing. There has been such positive progress with hydraulic fracturing — clearly the brightest spot in our otherwise slumping economy – and I’m certainly pleased the EPA is stepping aside and allowing the state to once again take the lead.”

The EPA said that state officials will take the lead investigating further into a link between fracking and groundwater pollution around Pavillion, Wyoming, and look into ways to make sure people in the area have safe drinking water.

“We think this is the most pragmatic, quickest way to help the residents of Pavillion. We’re going to work hand in hand with the state to make sure this investigation moves forward,” said EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds.

The EPA’s announcement was welcome news to the oil and gas industry, which argues that fracking is a safe and proven drilling method.

“America needs to know EPA is employing appropriate scientific methods for its water quality testing,” said Erik Milito, group director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Council. “EPA has to do a better job because another fatally flawed water study could have a big impact on how the nation develops its massive energy resources.”

In 2011, the EPA released a non-peer reviewed report on Pavillion in which the agency publicly linked fracking and groundwater contamination for the first time. However, then EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stated at the time that there is “no proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

The EPA has also found no link between fracking and groundwater contamination in Parker County, Texas and Dimock, Pennsylvania, which became a battleground in environmentalists’ campaign against fracking and was featured in the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland.”

“In the community of Dimock, Pennsylvania,” said Kate Sinding, an attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, “an aquifer was contaminated by bad drilling and fracking practices by a gas company — in addition to which there were a huge number of spills.”

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amounts that can be recovered.

The EPA is currently working on another nationwide study on the effects of fracking on drinking water, which the agency said won’t be completed until 2016.

Members of Congress have been critical of the EPA’s Wyoming fracking study, arguing that the report was flawed. Lawmakers have also expressed doubts of the credibility of the agency’s nationwide fracking study.

“I have had major concerns about this report from the very beginning,” said Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe. “Using shoddy science to pursue an agenda that prevents America from responsibly using our own energy resources is unacceptable. These wrong-headed efforts to over regulate this important sector of our economy would mean lost jobs, lost revenues, and increased costs for every American family.”

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