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Riverkeeper: What EPA really said about fracking’s potential to harm our drinking water resources

For Immediate Release
Contact: Cliff Weathers, 914-478-4501, Ext 239

New York’s clean water advocate says EPA’s report provides support for the State of New York to ban fracking.

Late last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released its long-anticipated draft assessment of the impact that hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water supplies. In the draft, EPA for the first time explicitly acknowledges that fracking and its related activities have been responsible for drinking water contamination on numerous occasions, and has the potential to contaminate drinking water resources through a number of mechanisms into the future.

Riverkeeper, after assessing the draft, has this statement from Kate Hudson, the organization’s Director of Cross-Watershed Initiatives:

With no cooperation from the fossil fuel industry, EPA’s study focused on a review of existing evidence that fracking and its related activities have resulted in impacts to drinking water resources and a catalogue of the risks and environmental pathways that could lead to more such impacts in the future. EPA’s clear conclusion: Fracking and related activities do pose a risk to ground and surface waters and have in some instances led to drinking water contamination. This conclusion is a far cry from, and completely debunks, the oil and gas industry’s repeated assertions, since fracking took off in this country, that fracking has never led to water contamination.

It is true that EPA’s report was limited in its ability to draw conclusions with certainty about the frequency or widespread nature of past damage to drinking water because of an inherent lack of data, a paucity of data deliberately engineered by the oil and gas industry.

Specifically, the industry applied significant political pressure on EPA to halt, and/or turn over to the states, studies of three significant instances of groundwater contamination that seemed to be connected with fracking in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Pavillion, Wyoming, and Parker County, Texas. EPA terminated its study in Parker County in order to gain cooperation from the fracking company – Range Resource – that never materialized. And from the beginning, the industry has resisted all attempts, both from government and from individuals and communities whose water has been impacted to gather and/or disclose the data that would prove a causal connection between fracking and those impacts. It is this lack of industry cooperation and data that has prevented EPA’s study from being able to reach a more definitive determination of the scope of impacts that have already occurred. But EPA is clear that the risk of additional contamination of water resources at the hands of fracking is significant going into the future.

EPA’s report is one more addition to a growing body of evidence that fracking and its related activities are not “safe” for human health or the environment, as New York State correctly concluded. This is hardly grounds for the celebratory tone that the oil and gas industry and its promoters have been taking because EPA does not yet have the data to accurately measure how widespread and systemic fracking’s impacts on our water resources have been, or more importantly, how widespread they will be if the industry remains as poorly regulated as it now is.

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