Quantcast
Energy

EPA Scientists Call Foul on Fracking Study, Say Findings 'Inconsistent With Data Presented'

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) advisors are calling foul on the agency's highly controversial study that determined hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the U.S.”

This specific conclusion is being called into question by members of the EPA Science Advisory Board, which reviews the agency's major studies, Bloomberg reported.

The EPA's conclusion requires clarification, David Dzombak, a Carnegie Mellon University environmental engineering professor who is leading the review, told Bloomberg. A panel headed by Dzombak will release its initial recommendations later this month.

"Major findings are ambiguous or are inconsistent with the observations/data presented in the body of the report," the 31 scientists on the panel said in December 2015.

Possible changes to the report could spell trouble for the oil and gas industry that recently celebrated the ending of a 40-year-old crude oil export ban in December 2015. According to Bloomberg, "a repudiation of the results could reignite the debate over the need for more regulation."

Fracking involves the pumping of highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas. The controversial drilling process has spurred a boom in U.S. oil and gas production and driven down gas prices across the country. However, numerous environmental complications have arisen from fracking, including pollution of water and air, landscape destruction and even earthquakes.

Five years ago, Congress commissioned the U.S. EPA to study the impacts of fracking on drinking water. After analyzing more than 950 sources, including previously published papers, state reports and the EPA's own research, the agency released a draft analysis in June 2015 that indeed found numerous harms to drinking water resources from fracking. As EcoWatch reported, the U.S. EPA found evidence of more than 36,000 spills from 2006 to 2012. That amounts to about 15 spills per day somewhere in the U.S.

However, the report's misleading and widely reported conclusion—“there is no evidence fracking has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources”—has not only downplayed fracking's effects on drinking water resources, it was also seen by many in the pro-drilling camp as the EPA's thumbs up to the drilling industry. For instance, a Forbes writer summed up the study with this headline: EPA Fracking Study: Drilling Wins.

According to Bloomberg, the review panel could ask the U.S. EPA to rescind this main conclusion or clarify it by saying that the "widespread, systemic" impacts from fracking are relative to the number of wells drilled.

Pennsylvania State University professor Elizabeth Boyer, a member of the Science Advisory Board, noted that the "widespread, systemic" top line was "widely quoted and interpreted in many different ways," EnergyWire reported. "The executive summary and press materials should be carefully reworded" for clarity, she said.

Some panel members also said that more weight should be given to the "severity of local impacts" on water supplies.

Some environmental advocates want the final U.S. EPA document to include additional information on "high-profile cases of fracking contamination inexplicably left out of the study," Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, pointing to drilling sites in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyoming.

Mark Ruffalo holds up a jug of contaminated well water from Dimock, Pennsylvania, during a New Yorkers Against Fracking rally in Albany, New York in 2012. Photo credit:
Flickr

Hauter added that EPA Science Advisory Board's official review of the study on fracking and drinking "may seem surprising, but it shouldn’t be to anyone who actually read the original study thoroughly."

"There was a clear disconnect between the EPA’s top-line spin—that there was no evidence of ‘widespread, systemic’ impacts on drinking water from fracking—and the content of the actual study, which highlights data limitations, open questions, and clear evidence of local and severe impacts," Hauter said. "This disconnect raises serious questions about political tampering with scientific conclusions in the release of the draft study."

Unsurprisingly, Big Oil and Gas are unhappy with the Science Advisory Board's review. American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard blamed the panel's criticisms on environmental activists opposed to fossil fuels.

“The science should be settled,” Gerard said at a news conference Tuesday. “There are a handful of people who are not happy with the outcome and they continue to drive their agenda based on ideology, not based on the science."

The agency will use the comments from the advisory panel as well as those submitted by the public "to evaluate how to augment and revise the draft assessment," EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told Bloomberg. "The final assessment will also reflect relevant literature published since the release of the draft assessment."

Meanwhile, a new paper published Jan. 6 in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental and Epidemiology only emphasizes why further evaluations on fracking fluids are a must.

After analyzing 1,021 chemicals used in fracking, Yale School of Public Health researchers found that many of the substances have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, and the majority had undetermined toxicity due to insufficient information, Phys.org reported on the study.

The research team said in their paper that further exposure and epidemiological studies are urgently needed to evaluate potential threats to human health from chemicals found in fracking fluids and wastewater created by fracking.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Teflon’s Toxic Legacy: DuPont Knew for Decades It Was Contaminating Water Supplies

12 Earthquakes Hit Frack-Happy Oklahoma in Less Than a Week

Confirmed: 4.6-Magnitude Earthquake in British Columbia Caused by Fracking (Likely World’s Largest)

Energy Companies Want Judge to Dismiss Historic Lawsuit Over Oklahoma Earthquakes

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

Honeybees Are Struggling to Get Enough Good Bacteria

A study published in Ecology and Evolution Monday shows that the big changes humans make to the land can have important consequences for some tiny microorganisms honeybees rely on to stay healthy.

Keep reading... Show less
Palace of Westminster. Alan Wong / Flickr

UK to Review Climate Goals, Explore 'Net-Zero' Emissions Strategy

The UK will review its long-term climate target and explore how to reach "net-zero" emissions by 2050, Environment Minister Claire Perry announced Tuesday.

The UK is the first G7 country to commit to such an analysis, which would seek to align the country's emissions trajectory to the Paris agreement's more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Keep reading... Show less
Lesser is greater. The lesser long-nosed bat pollinates agave flowers. Larry Petterborg / Flickr

First Bat Removed From U.S. Endangered Species List Helps Produce Tequila

The lesser long-nosed bat made bat history Tuesday when it became the first U.S. bat species to be removed from the endangered species list because of recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced.

Keep reading... Show less
Toxic fluorinated chemicals in tap water and at industrial or military sites. Environmental Working Group

Fluorinated Chemical Pollution Crisis Spreads

Two decades after pollution from highly toxic fluorinated chemicals was first reported in American communities and drinking water, the number of known contamination sites is growing rapidly, with no end in sight.

The latest update of an interactive map by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University documents publicly known pollution from so-called PFAS chemicals at 94 industrial or military sites in 22 states. When the map was first published 10 months ago, there were 52 known contamination sites in 19 states. The map and accompanying report are the most comprehensive resources tracking PFAS pollution in the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis

The Earth Day Network has announced that this year's Earth Day, on Sunday, April 22, will focus on ending plastic pollution by Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary of the world's first Earth Day in 1970, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Mike Mozart / Flickr

Germany to Put 'Massive Restrictions' on Monsanto Weedkiller

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner announced Tuesday she is drafting regulation to stop use of glyphosate in the country's home gardens, parks and sports facilities, Reuters reported.

The minister also plans to set "massive restrictions" for its use in agriculture, with exemptions for areas that are prone to erosion and cannot be worked with heavy machinery.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of Synch'

By Julia Conley

The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature's food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers the latest evidence that the climate crisis that human activity has contributed to has had far-reaching effects throughout the planet.

Keep reading... Show less
EPA memos passed since December weaken air quality controls for the sake of industry. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

EPA Memos Show Sneak Attack on Air Quality

Behind all the media attention focused on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt's many scandals, the agency has quietly passed a series of four memos since December that have a net impact of reducing air pollution controls to benefit industry, The Hill reported Wednesday.

The Hill's report comes just days before the world celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22. The first Earth Day, in 1970, is often credited with leading to the passage of the Clean Air Act that same year, but now the Trump administration seems intent on rolling back that legacy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!