Report: EPA Right to Conclude “No Widespread, Systemic Impacts” from Fracking

A new report released today by Catalyst Environmental Solutions for the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did its due diligence, providing robust scientific evidence to back up the conclusion of its landmark draft groundwater report: “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”

Of course, if there were any evidence of widespread systemic impacts to groundwater resources it would have been uncovered in the past decade of extensive study, and the EPA and its science advisors would have been able to cite it in its report. This new report lays out the four reasons EPA’s conclusion is the product of sound science, starting with the fact that dozens of other peer-reviewed studies have come to the same conclusion. As the report explains,

“EPA reviewed state-of-the-science studies and employed a structured and logical method of analysis to reach its conclusions by focusing on those areas where hydraulic fracturing was conducted in close proximity to drinking water supplies and/or residents. With this approach, if a significant correlation between impaired drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing existed, EPA would have identified it; however, the results did not support this finding. Further quantitative support comes from a large, credible body of case studies and peer-reviewed scientific literature from around the county that conducted quantitative analysis and modeling of potential causative mechanisms for hydraulic fracturing fluids to come into contact with drinking water resources. Incorporation of these studies into their analysis further demonstrates that there are no widespread effects to drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing.” (emphasis added)

The report also finds that EPA’s evaluation of the scale of impacts is appropriate. After all, the purpose of EPA’s study was to find out the overall risk and the data point to one conclusion only – that the impacts are not systemic. As the report states,

“EPA considered that, at the scale of 25,000-30,000 new hydraulically fractured wells annually, the few instances of potential impairment are neither systemic nor widespread. At a geographic scale, the study addresses impacts from the national to the county level. Local impacts, at the scale of a well pad, occur rarely.”

It’s worth pointing out again that EPA even granted activists’ wishes and greatly expanded the definition of drinking water in its study, yet it still found that impacts were “small” compared to the number of new wells being drilled every year across the country.

The report notes that responsible industry practices, as well as state regulations, have lower risks and limited incidents. That’s why the report notes that

“EPAs finding of no widespread effects to drinking water quality is a reflection of the effectiveness of these practices. Their finding makes sense. The California Council on Science and Technology’s 2015 comprehensive study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing came to a similar conclusion as EPA, providing further quantitative validation.”

API has also put together a fact sheet, which explains in detail the industry practices that have been protecting water resources. Finally, the report rightly states that “Recent State water monitoring requirements are providing further quantitative support that hydraulic fracturing is not leading to widespread, systemic effects to drinking water resources.”

The data are what the data are and evidence could not be clearer that fracking has not led to widespread, systemic impacts to groundwater. This report is just the latest to confirm that fact.

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