EPA fracking report offers few answers on drinking water

EPA fracking report offers few answers on drinking water

Is hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — safe, as the oil and gas industry claims?

WASHINGTON — Is hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — safe, as the oil and gas industry claims? Or does the controversial drilling technique that has spurred a domestic energy boom contaminate drinking water, as environmental groups and other critics charge?

After six years and more than the $29 million, the Environmental Protection Agency says it doesn’t know.

A new report issued Tuesday said fracking poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but a lack of information precludes a definitive statement on how severe the risk is.

“Because of the significant data gaps and uncertainties in the available data, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources” from fracking activities, the EPA said in a report that raises more questions than answers.

The report removes a finding from a draft issued last year indicating that fracking has not caused “widespread, systemic” harm to drinking water in the United States. Industry groups had hailed the draft EPA study as proof that fracking is safe, while environmentalists seized on the report’s identification of cases where fracking-related activities polluted drinking water.

Fracking involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rock formations so oil and gas will flow. The practice has spurred an ongoing energy boom but has raised widespread concerns that it might lead to groundwater contamination, increased air pollution and even earthquakes.

The reactions were reversed on Tuesday. Environmentalists cheered the new report as proof that fracking threatens drinking water, while industry groups complained the Obama administration had yielded to political pressure on its way out the door.

“We are glad EPA resisted oil and gas industry spin, followed the science and delivered the facts,” said John Noel, oil and gas campaigns co-ordinator for Clean Water Action, an advocacy group.

An oil industry spokesman called the report an “absurd” reversal that changes a science-based conclusion to one “based in political ambiguity” just weeks before President Barack Obama leaves office.

“The agency has walked away from nearly a thousand sources of information from … technical reports and peer-reviewed scientific reports demonstrating that … hydraulic fracturing does not lead to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources,” said Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobbying group.

The fracking study makes a mockery of frequent pledges by Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to follow science as they make decisions, Milito said. “We look forward to working with the new administration (of President-elect Donald Trump) to instil fact-based science back into the public policy process,” he said.

Tom Burke, EPA’s science adviser and a deputy assistant administrator, said in an interview that the removal of the phrase about “widespread, systemic” impacts came at the urging of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada serves to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Dalton Kellett pulls out of the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Dalton Kellett is pleased his second career season in IndyCar will be different than his first, which started on an elaborate iRacing rig in his home office in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Darron Cummings
Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Most Read