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EPA Releases Fracking Assessment

by Elizabeth Alford on December 15, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final report assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources.

Related: EPA Introduces a Competition to Increase Air Quality

The EPA’s comprehensive drinking water study was initiated by Congress in 2009 in order to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas and drinking water in the United States. The agency reviewed over 1,200 scientific sources and considered feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA’s Science Advisory Board. The report identifies the hydraulic fracturing activities that impact drinking water resources.

“The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources. EPA’s assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing.”

The EPA says that though the report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, it is not designed to be a list of documented impacts. The main conclusions of the assessment include:

  • Hydraulic fracturing can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances
  • Examples of impacts were identified for all stages of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle
  • Impacts can range in frequency and severity, depending on the combination of hydraulic fracturing activities and local or regional-scale factors
  • Significant data gaps and uncertainties prevent quantifying the number or frequency of impacts across the country


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