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EPA study confirms hydraulic fracturing is no threat to drinking water

June 16, 2015
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a long-awaited, exhaustive study on hydraulic fracturing’s effects on drinking water.

In a nutshell: It has none.

The EPA’s draft report states that while the “mechanisms” of hydraulic fracturing have the “potential” to impact drinking water resources, the number of identified cases were small in relation to the total number of wells completed through hydraulic fracturing.

"We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States," the report reads.

“(This) is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s science advisor and deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

The report matches the findings of several similar studies from various groups, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Government Accountability Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Groundwater Protection Council.

Despite this, anti-energy groups have pounced on the report.

"Today EPA confirmed what communities living with fracking have known for years, fracking pollutes drinking water," reads a statement from Earthworks. "Now the Obama administration, Congress, and state governments must act on that information to protect our drinking water, and stop perpetuating the oil and gas industry's myth that fracking is safe."

The report refers to “specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources,” but the draft report does not give the number of those instances, much less describe them.

The EPA study was initiated in 2010 by Democrats in the House of Representatives, and was slated for release in 2012. EPA pushed the final draft back more than once.

The study is actually the second from the EPA that determined the hydraulic fracturing process is safe. A 2004 report concluded the completion process in coalbed methane formations posed “little or no threat” to aquifers.

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