Hydraulic Fracturing

Industrial Strength: How the U.S. Government hid fracking’s risks to drinking water

A pivotal EPA study provided the rationale for exemptions that helped unleash the fracking boom. The science was suppressed to protect industry interest

WASHINGTON, DC — “For …all those who believe their water has been tainted by fracking, there are few remedies. Congress took away the most powerful one in 2005, prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from safeguarding drinking water that might be harmed by fracking and even denying the regulator the authority to find out what chemicals companies use. That provision of the Energy Policy Act was justified by an EPA study about fracking into coalbed methane reservoirs, completed under the George W. Bush administration, that concluded that fracking posed no risk to drinking water.

Concerns about the study emerged from the outset, including a 2004 whistleblower complaint that called it ‘scientifically unsound.’ Now, InsideClimate News has learned that the scientists who wrote the report disagreed with the conclusion imposed by the Bush EPA, saying there was not enough evidence to support it. The authors, who worked for a government contractor, went so far as to have their company’s name and their own removed from the final document.

At EPA, ‘there was a preconceived conclusion that there’s no risk associated with hydraulic fracturing into coalbed methane. That finding made its way into the Energy Policy Act, but with broader implications,’ said Chi Ho Sham, the group manager of a team of scientists and engineers for The Cadmus Group, the Massachusetts firm hired to do the report. ‘What we would have said in the conclusion is that there is some form of risk from hydraulic fracturing to groundwater. How you quantify it would require further analyses, but, in general, there is some risk.’

The fracking provision, widely known as the Halliburton loophole, after the oilfield services company once run by Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, is among a host of exemptions to federal pollution rules that Congress and successive administrations have given oil and gas companies over the last 40 years.”

— Neela Banerjee, Inside Climate News

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