EPA: Fracking Could Have Some Impact on Drinking Water

Dec 16, 2016  | 2 min  | Ep4217

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is slated to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, an EPA critic and vocal denier of climate change, has accused the agency of being anti-energy.

The current administration has curtailed energy exploration and focused on how oil drilling byproducts effect the environment.  

Josh Buettner has the story.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final report on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on U.S. drinking water.  EPA has identified cases where fracking-related activities could do harm. 

Environmentalists hailed the revision of last year’s preliminary draft, claiming EPA reversed course on previous assessments that fracking does not cause widespread, systemic harm to potable sources.

The fossil fuel industry rebuked the retraction of language from 2015 which had been seized upon by advocates as proof that fracking is safe. 

EPA’s study, requested by Congress in 2010, has cost close to $30 million.  And while the report concludes the practice poses a risk in some circumstances, the agency says significant data gaps and uncertainties preclude definitive answers. 

Fracking involves pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rock formations to allow oil and natural gas flows to be collected on the surface.  The practice has spurred an ongoing domestic energy boom, yet also raised widespread concerns regarding groundwater contamination, increased air pollution, and even earthquakes. 

The 5.6 magnitude seismic shockwaves felt in at least 6 states over Labor Day weekend have been attributed to wastewater injection from hydraulic fracturing and other sources in Oklahoma.

Critics charge the back-track raises more questions than answers and is clouded by political ambiguity just weeks before President Obama leaves office.  Some say new lame-duck regulations aimed at extraction industries would provide speed bumps to an incoming administration perceived friendly to new fossil fuel development.

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

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