original article: EPA: Fracking poses no ‘widespread, systemic’ harm to drinking water
June 4, 2015 by ELANA SCHOR
A long-awaited EPA report on hydraulic fracturing hands a victory to the oil and gas industry, concluding that the extraction process has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
The conclusions of EPA’s years-long fracking study should bolster natural gas producers, who have benefited from Obama administration environmental policies that shrunk the coal industry’s hold on the electricity industry.
Fracking has helped turn the U.S. into an energy superpower in recent years, but it’s also set off a political firestorm. Fueled by the Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland,” which told the story of a flaming tap water and well water contamination in a Pennsylvania town, the state of New York, as well as the cities of Pittsburgh and Denton, Texas enacted bans on the technology.
But environmentalists have had little success in curbing fracking on a large scale. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has hailed natural gas as playing “an important bridge role in the transition to a cleaner energy economy.”
That stance puts her largely in line with President Barack Obama, who has championed domestic gas and seen U.S. economy benefit from resurgence in oil production from fracking in states such as North Dakota and Texas.
Still, the EPA’s findings do not fully dismiss environmentalist concerns that fracking could imperil the water supply, pointing to “potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water.”
Among the possible areas of risk from fracking, according to EPA’s study, are “water withdrawals in areas with low water availability; hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources; inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids; inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.”
The EPA study, first requested by Congress during the fiscal 2010 appropriations cycle, is not designed to evaluate the effectiveness of existing fracking regulations or suggest new rules for the practice. The agency conducted a comprehensive peer review of existing studies on fracking’s drinking water impacts.
energy, environment, science, study