EPA Finds No Systemic Threat to Drinking Water from Fracking

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On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a long awaited, and congressionally mandated, study detailing the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. The EPA found no signs of “widespread, systemic” drinking water pollution from hydraulic fracturing.

“It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date,” says Dr. Thomas Burke, with the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, “including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports.”

“After more than five years and millions of dollars, the evidence gathered by EPA confirms what the agency has already acknowledged and what the oil and gas industry has known,” said Erik Milito, with the American Petroleum Institute. “Hydraulic fracturing is being done safely under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices.”

The report provides details about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, but states that specific instances of impacted drinking water resources have been isolated and small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country.

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

The study, which is still a draft, will be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment. Additional information about the study can be found at www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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