Science Advisory Board: EPA Lacked Clarity in Report on Fracking and Drinking Water Contamination

A fracking well in Colorado, pictured in 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board completed their review this week of the EPA’s impact of fracking on drinking water – and they aren’t satisfied.

The independent board of thirty scientists is concerned as to why the EPA stated that there is a lack of evidence of widespread impacts of fracking on drinking water. Since June 2015 they have been reviewing the 1,000-page draft report conducted by the EPA.

According to their review: “The EPA did not support quantitatively its conclusion about lack of evidence for widespread, systemic impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and did not clearly describe the system(s) of interest (e.g., groundwater, surface water), the scale of impacts (i.e., local or regional), nor the definitions of “systemic” and “widespread.”

The EPA not only ignored high-profile contamination cases in its study, but prematurely abandoned investigations. The SAB is recommending that they include detailed summaries of these critical cases.

The EPA’s review was conducted after Congress urged them to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting high-pressure chemicals, sand, and water into wells to break apart shale rock for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Fracking has been associated with water contamination, earthquakes, and spills but so far there has been no widespread studies that have been enough for the EPA to call for a ban.

Hugh MacMillan, senior researcher at Food & Water Watch stated:

“By choosing politics over science, the EPA failed the public with its misleading and controversial line, dismissing fracking’s impacts on drinking water and sacrificing public health and welfare along the way. We are calling on the EPA to act quickly on the recommendations from the EPA SAB and be clear about fracking’s impacts on drinking water resources. The EPA must prioritize the health and safety of the American people over the political interests of the oil and gas industry and its financiers, who have committed hundreds of billions to drilling and fracking in the coming decades. For climate reasons alone, that’s a vision for the future that we can ill-afford.”

Environmentalists, who have been calling for an all-out ban on fracking for years, are applauding the review. The EPA’s draft report that was analyzed has been, until this point, a huge victory for the oil and gas industry due to its suggestions that fracking is safe.


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.