There are at least three things to keep in mind when considering an Environmental Protection Agency “draft” assessment that argues hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, hasn’t led to widespread water contamination.
One, there definitely has been some water contamination related to fracking, according to the draft assessment.
Two, fracking uses up a tremendous amount of water, which could conceivably lead to drinking water shortages in dry areas, according to the EPA.
Three, the results of the study are in draft form. It has yet to be reviewed by the Science Advisory Board and the public hasn’t been given a chance to comment on it. The “public” may well include environmentalists and people who believe they have had their own drinking water contaminated by fracking operations. They would then provide their own observations, studies and specific cases. This will be part of the public record.
Here’s a National Public Radio report by Jeff Brady on the issue.
The oil and gas industry, of course, and the conservative media are lauding the news as a huge vindication of the fracking boom in the country. But the issue isn’t quite settled yet. It’s also important to note that conservatives are quick to criticize the EPA on just about anything it does, but not this time around. Suddenly, the EPA is exactly right, according to conservatives. No need for a lawsuit this time, right? Hurray for the EPA!
Here’s how The Oklahoman editorial board weighed in on the issue: “It’s telling that the extremism of the environmental movement has reached the point that some of its members now insist the Obama administration is engaged in a grand conspiracy with Big Oil.” After this bit of typical mockery, the editorial goes on to celebrate the EPA’s draft assessment as “good news.”
Here’s what that same editorial board had to say about the EPA a few days earlier: “Given the Environmental Protection Agency’s activist bent during the Obama administration, the natural reaction is to recoil at most any new EPA rules and regulations. Its recently released clean water rule is no exception.”
So if the EPA is right about how fracking doesn’t lead to widespread water contamination, according to conservatives, then why is it so wrong on other issues? This is a contradiction The Oklahoman will never acknowledge.
In the fracking process, water laced with chemicals is injected by high pressure into deep underground rock formations. This creates fissures that release fossil fuels. The wastewater is then injected into disposal or injection wells. Scientists say the injection well process has led to Oklahoma’s dramatic surge of earthquakes.
Oh yeah, earthquakes. That’s another issue related to the fracking process, and it’s an important one that at this point specifically in Oklahoma is more urgent than water contamination.
Environmentalists did argue the EPA’s draft assessment was influenced by the oil and gas industry, and they may well have a point. But is that “extremism” as The Oklahoman argues? What’s extremist about concern over clean water, which is necessary for our survival. Doesn’t the oil and gas industry have significant political power in this country? No one could argue otherwise.
This issue of the relationship between fracking and water contamination is ongoing and fluid. If there has been no widespread water contamination from fracking, then, yes, that’s good news. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about the possibility of it or that more cases won’t develop in the future. When it comes to drilling for oil and gas, it only takes one accident to cause immense damage to the environment. Everyone should know that by now.