CORRECTION: An important part of this blog post is incorrect. One fracking company, Chesapeake Energy, has volunteered to take part in a prospective (before drilling/fracking and after) case study with EPA.
The AP ran a story yesterday titled EPA's Fracking Study May Dodge Water Contamination Frequency Issue. That title is misleading.
Because if EPA’s final draft doesn’t address the frequency of water contamination, it will be fracking companies — not EPA — that did the dodging.
Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources, is the first extensive federal scientific inquiry into the impacts of fracking. Earthworks applauds it.
As part of that study, EPA wants to test groundwater quality near an oil or gas well drill site, before drilling/fracking and after. It’s only common sense that a study of fracking’s impacts on water would involve testing whether fracking impacts water.
EPA should be able to do these tests without a company volunteering to participate.
Unfortunately the logistics of testing – drill water test wells in proximity to the oil/gas well, and at the proper times – requires coordination with the driller/fracker. But EPA’s progress report delicately reveals (and as the AP story mentions) that no company has stepped forward to particpate in these tests.
Perhaps that’s because prior to this point when a company's drill/frack site has been found in association with water contamination, the company in question inevitably claimed “not our fault”. And it’s hard to dispute that claim -– no matter if you’ve had clean water for decades before drilling began — without baseline (pre-drilling) testing.
It’s not surprising that the drilling/fracking industry doesn’t want to participate, it’s part of a pattern of obfuscation:
- When injured families successfully sue frackers or drillers, the company in question settles before final judgment and requires the family to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of compensation.
- When frackers are pushed to disclose the chemicals they use, they oppose until their hand is forced. And then “disclosure” turns out not to be full disclosure.
This type of corporate behavior is partially attributable to the loopholes in federal environmental law exempting the oil and gas industry.
So perhaps the title of this story should have been: “Industry heel dragging in EPA fracking study illustrates why federal oversight should be strengthened”.