Energy

EPA Science Advisors Buck Enviro Pressure And Affirm ‘Fracking’ Is Safe

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Environmental Protection Agency science advisers affirmed the agency’s findings of no “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water” from hydraulic fracturing operations, despite reports from liberal media outlets claiming scientists disagree with EPA’s landmark report.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) “recommends that the EPA revise the major statements of findings… to be more precise, and to clearly link these statements to evidence provided in the body of the draft Assessment Report.”

In other words, EPA advisers affirmed the agency’s mainline findings of no widespread water contamination from fracking, but  want the agency to have more specifics in the report’s executive summary.

This is a huge upset for environmentalists and liberal journalists who have been using SAB criticisms of the EPA’s fracking report to cast doubt on the agency’s findings that fracking can be done safely.

The SAB’s first draft review of EPA’s fracking report said the agency’s main finding “is ambiguous and requires clarification.” The findings “are inconsistent with the observations, data and levels of uncertainty,” according to the SAB.

These assertions ignited a battle between environmentalists and fracking proponents over the soundness of EPA’s study. Environmentalists said the report illustrated how the agency was misleading the public on fracking’s devastating environmental impacts.

“The EPA’s own science advisers are rightfully responding to the EPA’s report with the fact that drilling and unconventional extraction are risks to the water cycle and that water contamination is a common and inherent problem,” Tony Ingraffea, Cornell University professor critical of fracking, told VICE in January.

Environmentalists still argue the new SAB draft review is critical of EPA’s mainline findings. Environmentalist Wenonah Hauter, the head of of the anti-fracking group Food & Water Watch, wrote she’s “confident that this tension between President Obama’s EPA and the EPA’s own independent advisory board of scientists is a direct consequence of political considerations trumping scientific evidence on fracking.”

This argument, however, is divorced from the facts, according to Dr. Katie Brown — an energy researcher who works for the oil and gas industry-backed education project, Energy In Depth.

“Indeed, if there were anything to suggest widespread or systemic impacts to drinking water as a result of hydraulic fracturing, such evidence would have been uncovered during the past decade of extensive study of the process, and the SAB would be able to cite that evidence,” Brown wrote in a recent blog post.

“But, whether it’s the first or second draft, there is nothing in SAB’s recommendations to suggest that EPA’s finding of no ‘widespread, systemic’ groundwater impacts from hydraulic fracturing is incorrect,” she wrote. “That’s because hydraulic fracturing has not caused widespread impacts on groundwater.”

Over the last few years, many major fracking studies have been published, and the consensus seems to be that fracking for oil and gas can be done safely without damaging drinking water sources.

Most recently, the University of Cincinnati published a three-year study on fracking’s impacts on groundwater in eastern Ohio. Unsurprisingly, they found fracking for natural gas was not contaminating groundwater.

“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination,” Amy Townsend-Small, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati, told the Ohio Times Reporter. “Some of our highest observed methane concentrations were not near a fracking well at all.”

“It is in line with reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Government Accountability Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Groundwater Protection Council, to name just a few,” Brown wrote.

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