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Rachel Richardson,
Environment America

Science advisors say EPA fracking study’s conclusion is suspect. Now what?

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON, DC – In a draft report issued yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s science advisers questioned the topline conclusion of the agency’s study on hydraulic fracturing. The panel said the widely-criticized finding that fracking poses no “widespread systemic risks” was “inconsistent” with the rest of the draft landmark study, released in June.

Now, the public, affected communities, other scientists and public health experts can weigh in with EPA on the most comprehensive study to date on the controversial drilling technique.

“Communities on the frontline of fracking know how it harms water and public health, and as this science panel points out, EPA's main finding belies its own research,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program. “That's why EPA should revise its false conclusion, which flies in the face of fracking's dangerous reality."

Reversal of the main finding of the congressionally-mandated study could increase pressure for regulations or limitations on fracking, which remains exempt from most major federal environmental laws and is linked to more than 1,000 cases of water contamination.

In addition to questioning the study’s conclusion, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board pointed to the report’s inexplicable exclusion of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Pavillion, Wyoming, and Parker County, Texas, where water became so contaminated that residents could no longer drink water from their own tap. Many of the affected residents spoke before the board to express their frustration.

Citing data gaps and ambiguity on how they reached the conclusion they did, the 31-member panel’s draft report is open to public comment until January 21st.

“Panel member Dr. Scott Blair said it best,” said Richardson, “there are 700 pages that present ‘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.’”

The science board will reconvene with public teleconference meetings February 1stto hear comments and review the draft report, and could make a second draft public by February 15th.

The EPA study analyzed more than 3,500 sources of information, but was successfully watered down by industry when it refused to allow baseline testing – an account of the chemicals present in groundwater before drilling began. According to EPA documents, Chesapeake Energy – a company that had initially agreed to testing – lobbied the agency to limit when and where they could test.

The study also failed to examine how the underground injection of wastewater, containing hundreds of toxic and even cancer-causing chemicals, threatens rivers, streams and drinking water.

“We urge EPA to listen to its science advisers,” Richardson said. “The conclusion that fracking posed no widespread risk dominated media coverage, and was used as fodder by fracking proponents to excuse a practice that increases pollution and puts our communities at risk.”