The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed today what millions of us have known for years: fracking (hydraulic fracturing) contaminates drinking water. In its final report issued today the EPA removed the finding that fracking did not cause “widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”
June 2015 Draft
EPA Releases Draft Assessment on the Potential Impacts to Drinking Water Resources from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources
The EPA’s own Science Advisory Board in August demanded a revision of the 2015 report, stating it was “lacking in several critical areas.”
In the final report, Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources, the EPA removed the controversial phrase and replace it with more definitive language:
December 2016 Final
U.S. EPA Releases Final Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water Resources
EPA’s report concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence these impacts
Even though the report makes no statements about the severity or frequency of the impacts of fracking, environmental advocates say the confirmation that it contaminates water is enough.
In a conference call with reporters today, EPA Deputy Administrator Tom Burke said the study produced significant findings: “We found scientific evidence of impacts to drinking water resources at each stage of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.”
Burke also said there are uncertainties and gaps in the data that prevented the study from making a national conclusion on fracking’s impact on drinking water. But he said it has caused some problems in local communities. Those problems include poor well construction, spills of wastewater that contains fracking fluid and water withdrawals from areas that have low water resources.
Burke was asked whether the Trump Administration could make changes to the study. He responded the peer reviewed scientific report does not make any policy proposals. He added the EPA has strong policies in place to protect the integrity of the science.
“I would hope that any decision maker would use this as very important evidence to guide decision making moving forward,” he said.
Burke added that what is needed is a more comprehensive review of the number of fracking wells nationwide, water testing throughout the fracking process, and a better understanding of the disposal of fracking wastewater.
The EPA’s final report identifies these specific conditions under which fracking impacts drinking water:
- Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
- Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
- Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
- Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.
Statements are streaming in from environmental and industry groups.
Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel:
“In releasing its final study, Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources, today the Environmental Protection Agency definitively confirmed that hydraulic fracturing pollutes drinking water in multiple ways, including the overly restrictive definition that the oil and gas industry uses.
By listening to its scientists instead of its political advisors, EPA’s fracking study sets an example that we hope, but do not expect, the Trump Administration to follow. But a Scott Pruitt EPA would have to ignore 5 years of scientific study, and years of community impacts, to do otherwise.
“Unfortunately for the still suffering citizens of Pavillion, WY, Dimock, PA and Weatherford, TX, their EPA investigations didn’t have advisory boards to publicly remind EPA that science trumps politics.”
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter:
“The EPA has confirmed what we’ve known all along: fracking can and does contaminate drinking water. We are pleased that the agency has acted on the recommendations of its Science Advisory Board and chosen be frank about the inherent harms and hazards of fracking. Today the Obama administration has rightly prioritized facts and science, and put public health and environmental protection over the profit-driven interests of the oil and gas industry.”
Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program Director Rachel Richardson:
“EPA’s report confirms what experts and the science show: that fracking operations put our drinking water at risk. That families from Colorado to Pennsylvania have had their water contaminated from fracking should be evidence enough, but today’s report confirms: fracking puts our water at risk.
“The conclusion that fracking posed no widespread risk dominated media coverage and was used as fodder by fracking proponents to excuse a practice that increases pollution and puts out communities at risk. We urge the EPA to take into account its own findings and address the urgent need to protect clean water from fracking’s harms.”
Americans Against Fracking board member, actor and activist Mark Ruffalo:
“At last the EPA confirms what independent science has overwhelmingly determined for years, that drilling and fracking contaminate drinking water. Across the country, Americans have had their lives turned upside down as fracking has poisoned the water coming out of their faucets and has made their families sick. Now all of our federal and state elected officials need to take action to protect Americans by banning fracking. Water is life.”
Clean Water Action National Oil and Gas Campaigns Coordinator John Noel:
“The final assessment confirms what we’ve known for years: fracking threatens drinking water and EPA must take action to address these threats now. We are glad EPA resisted oil and gas industry spin, followed the science, and delivered the facts.”
Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman:
“The EPA’s final report on impacts of fracking on groundwater has concluded what too many Americans already know from personal experience: Fracking has caused lasting harm to drinking water sources throughout the country. The most important finding from this study is that drilling, fracking, and the use of hazardous chemicals necessary to frack have caused groundwater contamination. This puts to rest the widely repeated lie that fracking is ‘safe’ and has never caused drinking water contamination.”
American Petroleum Institute upstream director Erik Milito:
“It is beyond absurd for the administration to reverse course on its way out the door. The agency has walked away from nearly a thousand sources of information from published papers, technical reports and peer reviewed scientific reports demonstrating that industry practices, industry trends, and regulatory programs protect water resources at every step of the hydraulic fracturing process. Decisions like this amplify the public’s frustrations with Washington.”
Energy in Depth spokesperson and writer Katie Brown:
“…[I]t’s clear that 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. EPA spent five years and at least $33 million in taxpayer dollars on this study, and now after initially claiming in their draft report that they had completed the ‘most complete compilation of scientific data to date,’ they’re saying there are ‘gaps’ in the data that preclude them from making a definitive statement …”