The truth behind EPA’s misleading fracking conclusion

By Michael Carter
Digital Campaigner, Stop Drilling Program

This past June, the EPA released its long-awaited study on fracking’s impacts to drinking water – and it was just what the oil and gas industry ordered. The study’s conclusion, that fracking has not “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources” contradicted the report’s own research showing specific instances of water contamination due to fracking. Yet industry and media immediately seized the finding as proof that fracking is safe. [1]

And in fact, the EPA's own Science Advisory Board -- charged with providing scientific advice to the agency -- criticized the study's top line conclusion, raising concerns over the data gaps in the report and the lack of an explanation on how they reached this conclusion. [3]

One of the board members, Dr. Scott Blair, said, “there are about 700 pages presenting the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources and human health but only two lines concluding that it is not a universal problem. Talk about a surprise ending!” [3]

A surprise ending indeed, especially considering the fact that residents from across the country have filed hundreds of complaints of contaminated water near fracking sites. [4]

The SAB pointed to the inexplicable exclusion of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Pavillion, Wyoming, and Parker County, Texas from the report. [3] The water in these communities has been so contaminated, that residents can no longer drink from their own taps. [5]

Many of the affected residents spoke before the EPA’s science advisory board to express their frustration. Parker County resident Steven Lipsky said, “At this point, I'm done. I don't know what to do. I feel that the EPA abandoned me.” [5]

Lipsky is best known for a video he posted on Youtube, in which he sets fire to water coming out of a spigot at his house. And Lipsky isn’t alone in seeing his well turned into a hazard by nearby fracking operations. For one Texas resident, Cody Murray, a build-up of methane in his well ended in disaster when his pump house exploded causing him and his family to sustain major burns. [6]

In places like Wyoming County, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Texas, residents have been evacuated from their homes due to contaminated water supplies. [7],[8]

The Science Advisory Board will reconvene after the new year to complete its review of the study and issue its final recommendation to the EPA. All the evidence points to water contamination as a systemic result of fracking. The EPA's own panel of experts knows that, the people living on fracking's front lines know it, and we will be advocating for a strong recommendation that the EPA takes seriously.

[1] “U.S. EPA. Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources (External Review Draft),” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 5 June 2015 

[2] “Water Supply Determination Letters,” Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Last updated 15 October 2015 

[3] John Noel, “Science Advisory Board to EPA on Fracking: It’s Complicated,” Clean Water Action, 30 October 2015

[4] Kevin Begos, “4 states confirm water pollution from drilling,” USA Today, 5 January 2014

[5] Sharon Kelly, “’Abandoned’ by EPA, Landowners from Dimock, Pavillion, Parker County Demand Inclusion in EPA National Fracking Study,” DeSmog Blog, 3 November 2015

[6] Samantha Page, “A Fireball Exploded in This Man’s Face, And Now He’s Suing the nearby Fracking Operation,” ThinkProgress, 12 August 2015 

[7] Brett Shipp, “Arlington officials report on fracking fluid blowout,” WFAA, 17 June 2015

[8] Sofia Ojeda, “UPDATE: Fracking Fluid Leak In Wyoming County,” WNEP, 15 March 2013