March 3, 2015

Can Fracking Pollute Drinking Water? Don’t Ask The EPA

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March 3, 2015 |  Neela Banerjee | InsideClimate News

Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency began an ambitious study of whether oil and gas drilling, in particular fracking, can pollute drinking water. A draft is due out this spring but, as InsideClimate News reports, the agency has failed to provide any meaningful answers.

A review of internal EPA documents and interviews with former and current EPA officials leads ICN to conclude that industry pressure and the Obama Administration’s support for domestic natural gas production have combined to scale back the study’s ambitiousness and narrow its scope.

But after five years of fighting with the oil and gas industry, the agency may still be unable to provide a clear answer when a draft of the study is published this spring, based on internal EPA documents and interviews with people who have knowledge of the study.

In order to make definitive connections between oil and gas production and water pollution, the EPA needed baseline studies of groundwater before fracking took place. But industry balked on giving EPA the access it needed to do those studies, and the agency couldn’t legally force them.

As InsideClimate News reports,

The abortive attempt to conduct prospective [or baseline] studies serves as “a microcosm of the relationship between industry and EPA,” said a former senior EPA official involved in fracking issues.

In the meantime, the agency also stopped investigating three high-profile cases of alleged water pollution by oil and gas development and fracking.