Internal EPA report shows division over fracking contamination study


An internal report shows that EPA staff and scientists were raising concerns about data on water contamination near natural gas hydrofracking wells in Pennsylvania even as EPA was shutting down further testing, the Los Angeles Times reported in an investigative story July 27. Meanwhile, Republicans held congressional hearings this week aimed at attacking federal fracking regulation and EPA research.

The LA Times reported on July 27 (excerpt):

Internal EPA report highlights disputes over fracking and well water

An EPA staff report suggests methane from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminated wells near Dimock, Pa., but the agency says the water’s safe to drink.

In an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation obtained by the Tribune/Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production. …

The presentation also concluded that “methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work.”

Critics say the decision in July 2012 by EPA headquarters in Washington to curtail its investigation at Dimock over the objection of its on-site staff fits a troubling pattern at a time when the Obama administration has used the sharp increase in natural gas production to rebut claims that it is opposed to fossil fuels. …

EPA continues its ongoing multi-year Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources, with a public review draft not slated until 2014. On July 24 a House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee hearing on Lessons Learned: EPA’s Investigations of Hydraulic Fracturing took process-oriented testimony about the agency’s fracking study from the EPA Director of Science Policy and the chair of EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel. The committee’s webpage for the hearing includes written testimony, member statements, and an archived webcast. It was clear that the theater of the hearing was mainly to give Republican members from Texas, Wyoming, and Utah an opportunity to engage in their usual EPA-bashing, with accusations of intended regulatory overreach and lack of scientific integrity.

Likewise at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing July 25, on a bill to allow state-level regulation and guidelines on hydrofracking for oil and gas on federal lands to pre-empt regulation by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has stewardship requirements to protect federal lands — i.e., lands that belong to all Americans — under the Federal Lands Policy Management Act. At issue are draft rules issued by the BLM in May “to require disclosure of the chemicals injected underground during hydraulic fracturing and to set tougher standards for demonstrating well-bore integrity and management of so-called flowback water” (Greenwire, July 25).

The proposed legislation, sponsored by a representative from Texas who is a former CEO of a Houston-based oil and gas company, would block the new rules and preclude the BLM from enforcing any rules or guidance on fracking in deference to whatever standards are set by states. The committee’s webpage for the hearing includes an archived webcast, written testimony, the chair’s statement, and a copy of the bill.

Not likely that this travesty will go anywhere in the Senate, even if the House majority rams it through.

Earlier posts:

President Obama and The Climate Emergency

Obama’s climate action plan: The devil is in the follow-through


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1 Response to Internal EPA report shows division over fracking contamination study

  1. Alan Septoff says:

    This is especially troubling news because the Environmental Protection Agency is the regulator of last resort.

    And we need EPA now more than ever because states are failing to protect the public. States simply are not enforcing oil and gas regulations, weak as they are.

    And this isn’t some histrionic rant, this is based on their own enforcement data. Read more here:

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