Fracking Impact on Drinking Water Negligible, Says EPA

Environmentalists demands to ban fracking are set back.



In his mendacious anti-fracking docudrama Gasland, activist Josh Fox notoriously showed a running faucet in a Colorado home being lit by a match. The implication was the fracking had contaminated the homeowner's well with natural gas. However, the water had tested in 2008 by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which reported to the resident: "There are no indications of any oil & gas related impacts to your well water." The agency concluded that the natural gas in his water supply was derived from natural sources—the water well penetrated several coal beds that had released the methane into the well.

Many other activists have been asserting that fracking should be stopped because it is causing widespread contamination of drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency has just released it's draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources. As Bloomberg Business reports:

The 998-page EPA study concluded there are "mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources." But, it "did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."

Thomas Burke, the EPA's top science adviser, told reporters that given 30,000 fracked wells each year, "the number of documented impacts on groundwater resources is relatively low."

Industry groups said that result vindicated what they have been arguing for years: drilling activity has risks, but fracking doesn't deserve new federal oversight because the risks of underground water contamination is low.

The study "is absolutely consistent with all the previous studies that show that effective well containment practices make hydraulic fracturing a very safe practice," Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The report's conclusions don't provide any support for fracking regulations proposed by congressional Democrats, said Larry Nettles, a partner with law firm Vinson & Elkins who represents several industry clients that supplied data for the study.

"I think this report effectively kills those bills," Nettles said.

The report is also a boost for President Barack Obama's reliance on natural gas to achieve cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, an effort that's the mainstay of his agenda to combat climate change.

Natural gas and chemicals were not found to have migrated upward from the fracked shale zones to contaminate well water. The rare instances where contamination is suspected or occurred were almost entirely the result of wells that had flaws in their cement and steel casings or from surface water spills.

Of course, drilling companies must fully compensate for any damage they may cause.

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  1. Unicorn Power(tm). 100% Natural, 100% Recycled, 100% Progressive. Accept no substitute. Now where is my subsidy?

  2. I get that warm fuzzy feeling inside when I can point to a government agency’s study when telling progressives why they’re wrong. It’s a great feeling when I can use their own beloved bureaucratic regulatory institutions against them. Totally leaves them speechless every time.

    1. The science they disagree with is not settled.

      1. They’re still ranting about Monsanto and GMOs

        1. Online, sure. Its easier to come up with a dodgy response since you have time to. But in person, it usually leaves them with a shortage of words. Its delicious.

  3. The EPA? We’re supposed to trust them?

    1. If even the EPA can’t fuck with the numbers enough to make fracking look dangerous, yes, we can trust them.

  4. The local radio show is full of “fracking causes earthquakes” this morning.

    The calls all start off with, “I’m all for capitalism, but…”

    I can’t tell the difference between these people and other conspiracy nutters.

  5. Color me shocked as hell that the EPA did not find a way to turn this positive into a potential for negative that must be controlled. Have they spent all their powder on CO2 and Waterways regulation? Is natural gas that important to Obama’s AGW crusade? Have the Oil Companies infiltrated them that much?

    I am skeptical that they are just relying on the science here.

    1. Politically, they can only attack oil so much. Fracking is also important for international affairs, as it’s a serious threat to Russian and Middle Eastern oil revenues.

    2. “Is natural gas that important to Obama’s AGW crusade? ”

      I think this is a big factor. The cuts in CO2 the EPA is pushing are pretty big, and shifting from coal to gas for power generation is probably the least painful way to make them. Normally, I would expect the Obama administration not to care about such niceties, but in this case, the pain would be pretty bad. Like, “frequent black outs” bad. That’s probably a bridge too far, even for them.

  6. Fracking isn’t even anything new. It’s been around since the 1950’s….

  7. My piece on the Gasland documentary and director Josh Fox’s refusal to explain to when and how he got the alleged $100,000 request to lease his family land for drilling, the event that forms the pretext for the whole film: http://www.washingtonexaminer……le/2534554

  8. If you were going to have your water contaminated by something, wouldn’t you rather it be natural gas? Because… it’s “natural”.

    *cue Tom’s of Maine folk guitar*

  9. Glad this is settled, now the EPA can expand it’s regulation of municipal food/grease disposal.

  10. Progressives believe that the EPA is simultaneously our last defense against evil corporate polluters and also totally bought and sold by evil corporate polluters. In this case they’ll use the second argument.

  11. Fracking is done thousands of feet below drinking water, with layers of impermeable rock between the oil and gas deposits and the drinking water.

    Water wells getting natural gas into them are not uncommon. They just need new casing to block out the gas from the layers they penetrate that have gas.

    Where one of my friends used to live, their well had a lot of sulfur which smelled awful and required an expensive filtration system. Then one day the sulfur was gone and never came back. Dunno if something shifted underground to block off the source of the sulfur or if it had just all come out of the ground.

    1. Hey, Galane… remember, this IS America… did your friend find anyone to sue because their water NO LONGER smelled of sulfur and they could no longer complain about it? /sarc… 🙂

      I find this article hilarious because I can predict Immediately that the Greens will deny the veracity of the EPA’s findings and begin listing reasons why it’s all a conspiracy against their ‘settled science.’

      My 28th Law predicts it completely…

      “No matter what happens…
      ?28a … there is always someone ready to tell you that it happened according to his or her pet theory.
      ?28b … there is always someone ready to misinterpret what it means.
      ?28c … there is always someone who says they predicted it all along…
      ?28d … there is always someone who won’t believe it until they have “the proof” in their own hands or unless they “saw it with their own eyes…”
      ?28e … there is always someone who will blame it on some kind of conspiracy…
      ?28f … there is always someone who won’t believe it at all, no matter what kind of proof is presented…
      ?28g … there is always someone who will feel offended by it…
      ?28h … there is always someone who will start an organization to support or oppose it…

  12. Fracking is happen a whole lot more…. see for yourself
    search “the empire fracks back” talking about how the US lifted its ban on oil exports.

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