By Jeff Stier
EPA officials just discarded the central conclusion of a report they’d been working on for five years to appease green extremists. Although early drafts found no evidence that fracking has had a “widespread, systemic” impact on drinking water, the final report claims there isn’t “enough information to make a broad conclusion.”
How absurd. An honest look at the science should have environmentalists waving the white flag in their fight against fracking. It’s time for the EPA and green crusaders to quit this political charade and recognize that fracking technology has boosted the economy, helped wean America off imported oil and gas, and dramatically reduced CO2 emissions.
In 2015, a draft of the EPA’s report found fracking operations have not “led to widespread, systemic impact on drinking water.” The science in the report hasn’t changed. But the EPA, under pressure, adjusted its conclusion to suit critics to the left of the administration, who would have been left without a leg to stand on in their efforts to sow doubt about fracking safety.
The findings weren’t surprising. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded she’s “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he has “not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.”
Green activists and their Washington allies were quick to contest the draft report, ignoring that EPA researchers relied on more than 950 sources for their report. Do environmentalists really expect us to believe the agency, no friend of the oil and gas industry, is in the pocket of Big Fracking? The academic community is in agreement on fracking; only activists are fracking deniers.
For example, a Duke University study in Arkansas found that shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing had no impact on groundwater.
Scientists analyzing the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania found fracking activity harmless, concluding there was “no evidence for direct communication with shallow drinking water wells due to upward migration from shale horizons.”
This year, a three-year study by the University of Cincinnati found that fracking did not affect water supplies — despite researchers’ best efforts to find a link. Lead scientist Amy Townsend-Small said her team was planning to keep the results under wraps because their funders were hoping the “data could point to a reason to ban” fracking.
Attempts to undermine fracking threaten America’s ability to tap into energy benefits. In 2012, oil and natural gas production saved the average U.S. household at least $1,200. All told, the industry supports almost 10 million jobs and represents 8 percent of the U.S. economy — and those figures are predicted to grow, especially if OPEC keeps its promise to reduce production.
Moreover, fracking has strengthened America’s energy independence. As the world’s leader in oil and natural gas production, the United States can scale back its energy purchases from less-friendly nations.
Despite the green movement’s outrage, fracking is helping the environment. The boom in gas and oil production has enabled us to substitute natural gas for coal. As a result, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit their lowest level in nearly three decades.
Environmentalists should stop denying science. Fracking boosts our economy, strengthens energy independence, and protects our environment. It’s a shame that, like the most extreme green activists, the EPA is only willing to embrace science when it serves an anti-fossil-fuel agenda.
Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.