After many years of study, EPA this week released a comprehensive report on the practice of hydraulic fracturing – also known as fracking – finding no evidence that fracking has led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.” Linking to the 1,399 page study here. This is great news for the Nation’s economy, the environment, and fracking communities, many of which have been gripped by fear and anxiety regarding the potential impacts on drinking water. Importantly, the combination of fracking, which has been around since the 1940s, and new techniques for direction drilling, has led to this country’s cheap energy revolution. No doubt this will bring added pressure on states, like New York, that have imposed moratoriums on fracking. As a WSJ editorial notes, “the environmental movement has stoked speculative fears about chemical mixes leaching into aquifers, poisoned potable water and toxic spills.” This fact this hasn’t happened is welcome news. But not doubt there are some who remain skeptical or will refuse to accept EPA’s conclusions. Case in point, NRDC issued the following press release:
“This draft study provides solid scientific analysis that fracking has contaminated drinking water around the country. The report, while limited, shows fracking can and has impacted drinking water sources in many different ways. We agree that the public needs better protections.[sic]”
“There are still significant gaps in the scientific understanding of fracking. This study is site-specific and limited, as EPA has explained which makes it impossible to fully understand all the risks at this time.[sic]”
“This draft study is missing some critical elements, hamstringing its comprehensiveness. Among other things, there are reports industry has not cooperated in providing important information. And field studies of start-to-finish impacts never made it in. Much more science will be necessary to fully understand all of the risks. But despite the holes, it is clear EPA has found impacts–they just cannot be sure how widespread those impacts are.[sic]”
“We will be digging into this study in the coming days, with close focus on evaluating the role of the oil and gas industry, which submarined a Bush administration study. Americans should be able to trust that their drinking water is safe, and we are counting on EPA to protect it.”
I’m a firm believer that a healthy dose of skepticism is indeed, well, healthy. So to that end, it is healthy and a good thing that NRDC will continue to review missing critical elements and digging into the study as promised. And, it will be important if new data is discovered that tends to conflict with the prevailing scientific conclusions on fracking that that information be provided to the public and decision-makers to better inform policy decisions. But for now, let’s be thankful that fracking can be done responsibly and sustainably, understanding full well that mistakes and failures with real consequences can happen, as reminded by the recent oil spill in California.