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Energy secretary: Fracking can be done safely

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely and there has been no evidence the drilling technique causes groundwater contamination.

“I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” Moniz told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Thursday, adding that natural gas could be used as a “bridge to a low carbon future” as it releases about one-third to one-half as much carbon dioxide as other fossil fuels.

Environmentalists have been pressuring the federal government to clamp down on fracking over concerns that it causes water contamination. However, a recent Energy Department study found no evidence of groundwater contamination from natural gas drilling sites in western Pennsylvania. In fact, the study found that fracking fluid stayed nearly a mile below drinking water supplies.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also failed on three separate occasions to link groundwater contamination to fracking, most recently abandoning a study on the issue in Pavillion, Wyo. The agency is currently working on a separate nationwide study on fracking, which it said won’t be completed until 2016.

“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.”

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. However, Moniz said that there have been a few instances where methane got into groundwater due to faulty well design, but stressed that such problems were “manageable.”

“Manageable means it still has to be managed,” Moniz added, stressing the importance of proper regulations.

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