EPA abandons frac findings in Pavillion
June 24, 2013
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The Obama administration has abandoned plans to further investigate preliminary federal findings that linked contamination of drinking water in a Wyoming township to natural gas drilling after an industry backlash called the study into question.
The draft report released by the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2011 was the first and only federal investigation to find evidence that hydraulic fracturing fluids could be a cause of groundwater contamination.
The EPA study focused on the township of Pavillion, Wyoming, which has become a flashpoint in the debate between those in the oil and gas industry who say fracking is safe, and environmentalists who say the drilling practise is a danger to public health.
Critics of the EPA report, including Wyoming officials, raised concerns about whether the agency properly constructed the wells it used to draw its conclusions.
After numerous delays, the EPA said last week that it would not finalise the report or seek a peer review of its findings, instead saying it would allow Wyoming to take over the investigation, Reuters reported.
"We believe that EPA's focus going forward should be on using our resources to support Wyoming's efforts, which will build on EPA's monitoring results," EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said, according to the news wire.
Wyoming plans to release a final report on the Pavillion matter by 30 September 2014.
Natural gas supporters were triumphant following the EPA's decision.
"The EPA has been on a witch hunt to shut down hydraulic fracturing, but yet again the evidence has determined it is safe," Senator David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, said in a statement.
Environmentalists, however, lamented.
“It’s clear that the White House’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy means fracking’s impacts on communities are being ignored,” said Alan Septoff, a spokesman for Earthworks, an environmental group. “The EPA is being forced by political pressure to back off sound science that shows fracking-enabled oil and gas development is a risk to public health.”
Despite the criticism, EPA said it stands by its work and its data in the Pavillion case.
The agency is currently conducting a separate nationwide study examining the effects of fracking on drinking water. That draft report is due out in late 2014.