EPA’s Final Report on Fracking

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency issued their final repost on whether fracking pollutes drinking water, there are still many unanswered questions regarding its safety on the environment and public health. Susan Phillips, Short on Data, EPA’s Final Report on Fracking Leaves Many Disheartened, www.npr.org, (Dec. 25, 2016). Fracking is a process of injecting water and chemicals deep into the earth in order to extract reserves of natural gas, that otherwise would be trapped. Id. Due to the concern that the process contaminates drinking water and wells, the EPA was ordered by Congress to investigate. Id.

Many are frustrated by the lack of information the report provides. Id. For example, Victoria Switzer leased her land to a gas company, and shortly after drilling began her well water turned black, orange, soapy, and undrinkable. Id. Switzer blames the drilling for the change in her water, but since no baseline water test was conducted before drilling, it is very difficult to place blame. Id. Switzer was hopeful the EPA would provide her with answers when they sampled her water for the report. Id. The report found that fracking can, in some circumstances, pollute water, however, the EPA cannot say if gas drilling is what caused Switzer’s water to become undrinkable. Id.

Other critics thought the EPA should have focused on understanding how frequently adverse results occur, instead of what could/has happened. Id. Another issue is that the gas and oil industry is regulated by the states, not the federal government. Id. Therefore, each state has different requirements on what needs to be reported, making it difficult to analyze the problem on national level. Id. Some are more hopeful, explaining that identifying the gaps in data is actually an important step in solving the problem. Id.