Friday, June 21, 2013

EPA abandons study that linked fracking, Wyoming water pollution

By Ben Geman 06/20/13 06:15 PM ET
THE HILL's Energy & Environment Blog                                                                                                         
The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it won’t finalize a draft 2011 study that concluded water pollution in a Wyoming region might stem from hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil-and-gas development method.

The decision to abandon the probe quickly buoyed gas industry advocates of the method dubbed “fracking,” who say it’s a safe practice.

The EPA said it will not complete or seek peer review of a 2011 draft study, which found that groundwater pollution in the Pavillion, Wyo., area was consistent with chemicals used in gas production.

The EPA said it stands by its work but that it would now support further study led by the state of Wyoming.

“While EPA stands behind its work and data, the agency recognizes the State of Wyoming’s commitment for further investigation and efforts to provide clean water and does not plan to finalize or seek peer review of its draft Pavillion groundwater report released in December, 2011,” the EPA said as part of a joint release with the state of Wyoming.

“Nor does the agency plan to rely upon the conclusions in the draft report,” the EPA said.

The EPA, in a 2011 summary of its draft findings, had said its investigation “indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

The agency had also said in 2011 that the presence of certain chemicals in drinking water wells was “consistent with migration from areas of gas production.”

But Wyoming state officials and industry officials have criticized the EPA’s draft report that linked pollution to fracking, notes The Associated Press, which broke the news of the agency’s decision not to finalize its study.

Steve Everley, a spokesman for the industry group Energy In Depth, said EPA's decision “says pretty clearly that the agency is finally acknowledging the severity of the report’s flaws, and leaning once again on the expertise of state regulators.”

But the environmental group Food & Water Watch lamented the EPA's decision to abandon its Pavillion investigation, alleging the agency is “abdicating its responsibility.”

“If there is any question whatsoever about the safety of fracking and its effects on drinking water supplies, the EPA should make it a top priority to investigate the matter fully,” said Wenonah Hauter, the group's executive director.

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