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oh frack

The EPA found that fracking can impact drinking water quality.

Its long-awaited report corrects the record on the scientific evidence regarding a controversial aspect of hydraulic fracturing. From the report’s executive summary:

When hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells are located near or within drinking water resources, there is a greater potential for activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle to impact those resources.

An investigation found that earlier this year, the EPA downplayed its findings by saying fracking operations have no “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water, despite finding plenty of examples of contamination.

The EPA, in the end, didn’t include the controversial text. The Union of Concerned Scientists credits the EPA’s independent panel of scientists on the Science Advisory Board (SAB) for that language being removed. SAB wrote in August: “The SAB finds that the EPA did not support quantitatively its conclusion about lack of evidence for widespread, systemic impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.”

Like any government agency, the EPA is under political pressure from all sides. But the core of the agency’s mission is to heed science. The question is whether the EPA’s political leaders will still heed those recommendations when it’s run by climate change deniers.