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Before study panel, EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project recommends use of sound science, water testing

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 8th — Yesterday, EARTHWORKS provided comments to the EPA's Science Advisory Board charged with studying the public health and drinking water impacts of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”). Highlights of EARTHWORKS' recommendations included:

  • Studying actual fracking operations. Few, if any, peer-reviewed studies provide actual data regarding the injection of fracking fluids and what happens to it underground.
  • Post-fracking, evaluating area water quality for presences of all constituents used in hydraulic fracturing not just a subset of carrier' fluids.
  • Preventing anyone with a financial interest in the study's outcome from carrying out or reviewing the study.
  • Analyzing the risk posed to public health and drinking water by shortcomings in current state oversight of hydraulic fracturing.

In her testimony before the EPA advisory board, Lauren Pagel, EARTHWORKS Policy Director, stated “Anecdotal evidence abounds that hydraulic fracturing risks public health and drinking water.  But thanks to industry stonewalling and prior government malfeasance, no legitimate analysis of this evidence has yet occurred.  We hope this study will remedy the situation.”

Earlier this year, Congress charged the EPA to ‘conduct analyses to assess the potential risks to drinking water posed by hydraulic fracturing of formations including coalbeds and shale for extraction of natural gas.'  This study is the result.

This study is necessary because a 2004 EPA study of roughly the same issue – which was used to justify an exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act – was widely discredited.  Among other shortcomings, the EPA didn't test the water near actual fracturing operations. EARTHWORKS' landmark exposé of the 2004 study, Our Drinking Water At Risk; What the EPA and the Oil and Gas Industry Don't Want Us to Know About Hydraulic Fracturing makes the case for strong drinking water protections including full disclosure of the chemical constituents of fracturing fluids.

“EPA's Science Advisory Board will do well to ensure this hydraulic fracturing study uses sound science,” said Gwen Lachelt, Director of EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project.  The citizens of America's oil and gas producing regions deserve nothing less than a rigorous and expedited study.” “They seem to be off to a good start, but time will tell.”

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