Two sources within the Environmental Protection Agency have told government watchdog groups that the Obama administration interfered with investigations of hydraulic fracturing during the 2012 presidential campaign.
The American Traditional Institute (ATI) and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FMELC) filed two Freedom of Information Act requests after receiving tips from two separate career EPA employees who charged that politics drove the EPA’s handling of a fracking study in Pennsylvania.
“These two EPA employees appear credible; one we have established is quite reliable and the other was referred to us by a highly-regarded and well-known academic scientist,” said Chris Horner, ATI senior fellow and FMELC attorney, who filed the FOIA requests.
One source was close to a field team working near Dimock, Pennsylvania, and alleged that the administration got involved in the fracking studies as President Barack Obama started to tout natural gas drilling as an economic bright spot during the 2012 campaign.
Dimock became the center of controversy after some residents said that nearby drilling operations had contaminated their drinking water. Yet the EPA stated last summer that “there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the agency.”
The Los Angeles Times obtained an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation that showed that officials at the agency’s mid-Atlantic office urged further investigation into Dimock even as the EPA was saying the town’s drinking water was safe.
“Critics say the decision in July 2012 by EPA headquarters in Washington to curtail its investigation at Dimock over the objection of its on-site staff fits a troubling pattern at a time when the Obama administration has used the sharp increase in natural gas production to rebut claims that it is opposed to fossil fuels,” the LA Times reports.
The EPA has also closed two other high-profile investigations into fracking in Parker County, Texas, and Pavillion, Wyoming. However, Horner argues that alleged political interference by the administration does not mean fracking has contaminated drinking water.
“One of the EPA employee’s information, while not presenting evidence of any problem with fracking, is however quite striking evidence of political interference with career employees,” Horner added. “The other’s information proves that the issue drew uniquely high-level political attention.”
The second source gave Horner screen shots from former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s alias email account “Richard Windsor,” showing a discussion group called “HQ-Dimock.”
“I have for over a year now worked within the system to try and make right the injustice and apparent unethical acts I witnessed,” wrote one of the sources, acknowledging he wasn’t alone in this. “I took an oath when I became a federal employee that I assume very solemnly. Additionally there is a code of conduct that was once displayed for all to see, that I also believe and ascribe to.””
Horner points out that the Obama administration’s embrace of fracking contradicts past testimony from top officials. Alan B. Krueger, assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist at the Department of Treasury, testified before Congress that the U.S. overproduces oil and natural gas and advocated for cutting tax benefits to the industry to help cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
“As we state in our FOIA requests, this is not evidence of a problem with fracking but evidence of political intervention — apparently with electoral needs in mind — only,” said Horner. “Such decisions, as we also point out, are subject to reversal when the politicians find they have different needs. And the public should know if that’s how things are being done at EPA, and in this White House.”
The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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