Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was commissioned by Congress to undertake a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water. This newer method of oil and gas extraction involves the pumping of highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations.
Fracking has driven the boom in U.S. oil production and contributed to the steep drop in gasoline prices, but the environmental impacts of this relatively new technique are not well understood.
The EPA’s draft study—released in June to solicit input from advisers and the public—found that fracking has already contaminated drinking water, stating in the report:
“We found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells…
Approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well … These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013…
Hydraulic fracturing can also affect drinking water resources outside the immediate vicinity of a hydraulically fractured well.”
Despite these findings, and EPA’s own admissions of “data limitations and uncertainties” as well as “the paucity of long-term systemic studies,” the agency stated in its conclusion that “there is no evidence fracking has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
Industry hacks and their MSM cheerleaders took this line and ran with it, proclaiming that “the science is settled” on fracking and any further concerns are just crazed environmental activists pursuing an agenda.