The EPA is dropping its only investigation that has found evidence of water contamination from fracking.
Following a three-year study of groundwater pollution around Pavilion, Wyo., the EPA concluded in a draft report in 2011 that fracking chemicals were a likely cause. The finding was obviously controversial — frackers would like us to believe that injecting poisonous chemicals into the ground couldn’t possibly poison water. Critics of the research found fault with the EPA’s methodology and said contamination could have predated fracking.
In the face of these controversies, the agency backed down Thursday, announcing that it was halting the research and abandoning its own draft findings. From The Hill:
The EPA said it will not complete or seek peer review of a 2011 draft study, which found that groundwater pollution in the Pavillion, Wyo., area was consistent with chemicals used in gas production.
The EPA said … it would now support further study led by the state of Wyoming.
“While EPA stands behind its work and data, the agency recognizes the State of Wyoming’s commitment for further investigation and efforts to provide clean water and does not plan to finalize or seek peer review of its draft Pavillion groundwater report released in December, 2011,” the EPA said as part of a joint release with the state of Wyoming.
“Nor does the agency plan to rely upon the conclusions in the draft report,” the EPA said.
Though the announcement was welcomed by industry, the frackers still weren’t satisfied. “EPA should not only drop the Pavillion work from consideration, it should fully retract it,” American Petroleum Institute official Erik Milito said in a statement. “Our environmental performance is strong. It is a shame this reality is sometimes overshadowed by misinformation generated by faulty procedures and analysis from a federal agency.”
So the investigation will now be handed off to the state of Wyoming, whose officials were critical of the EPA’s draft finding. And the research will be funded by the very company that did the alleged polluting. From the AP:
The new research led by Wyoming officials would be funded at least in part by a $1.5 million grant from Encana Corp.’s U.S. oil and gas subsidiary, which owns the Pavillion gas field. The state will issue a final report in late 2014, Gov. Matt Mead’s office said in a news release.
We’ll give the last word to Josh Fox, director of Gasland, the Emmy Award-winning documentary about fracking: “I’m dumbfounded,” he said. “Wyoming was openly hostile to this investigation from the get go. And to have Encana pay for it? That’s insane.”