U.S. EPA ends probe of Wyoming water pollution linked to fracking

Thu Jun 20, 2013 6:50pm EDT

Related Topics

* 2011 EPA report linked fracking to drinking water pollution

* Critics said EPA improperly constructed wells for study

* Wyoming to take over fracking investigation

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON, June 20 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Thursday dropped plans to further investigate preliminary federal findings that linked contamination of a Wyoming aquifer to natural gas drilling, following industry backlash that called the study into question.

The draft report released by the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2011 sent shockwaves through the oil and gas sector, by finding that hydraulic fracturing fluids used in shale gas drilling had likely contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming.

Those findings contradicted industry arguments that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has never played a role in water contamination and bolstered environmentalists who say the drilling practice is a danger to public health.

Critics of the report, including Wyoming officials, raised concerns about whether EPA properly constructed the wells it used to draw its conclusions.

After numerous delays, the EPA said Thursday it would not finalize the report or seek a peer review of its findings, instead saying it would allow Wyoming to take over the investigation.

"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 in a statement.

Wyoming plans to release a final report on the Pavillion matter by Sept. 30, 2014.

The U.S. shale gas boom, spurred by innovations in hydraulic fracturing, has unlocked massive gas reserves, but it has sparked protests from green groups who complain that the rapidly expanding gas production pollutes air and water.

EPA's draft report raised industry fears that the administration could be moving toward seeking tighter federal regulations of fracking, which supporters say has been done safely for decades.

Fracking involves the injections of millions of gallons of water underground at high pressure along with chemicals and sand to extract fuel. Fracking is mostly exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Natural gas supporters were triumphant after 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.

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. (Editing by Eric Walsh)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
JB63 wrote:
BTW, with all this new oil and gas coming into the market has anyone seen prices drop? I didn’t think so. The laws of supply and demand don’t seem to prevail here.

Jun 20, 2013 10:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jdmeth wrote:
JB63, simple Google search shows 2005 $9.08 tcf. 2013 #3.35 tcf. Looks like a drop to me.You must be an English major.

Jun 20, 2013 11:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
WillHolder wrote:
This is the most corrupt administration I have seen in my lifetime.

Jun 20, 2013 11:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.