The much-anticipated report on the environmental impact of the method to extract oil known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” pleased the oil industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the pollution of natural reserves is not significant, considering the number of existing wells. Still, it is easy to think that these results do not reflect the security of the system, but the lack of information available.
In 2010, the EPA had ambitious plans when it set out to conduct the biggest study about the impact of fracking, a method that involves injecting liquids at high pressure into underground formations to extract oil and gas. Over time, however, those plans were diluted due to the industry’s lack of collaboration.
For instance, the study was conducted without a specific knowledge of the frequency with which fracking affects water wells. The EPA report clearly mentions the lack of access to information regarding hydraulic fracturing.
For their part, the industry celebrated the fact that no more than 200 contaminated water deposits were found among the 25,000 and 30,000 new wells perforated every year between 2011 and 2014 in over 25 states. That is all fine if the affected well is not the one where your water comes from.
The lack of information left out the phenomenon of earthquake occurrences in Texas and Oklahoma, to name one thing.
The oil industry sabotaged the report in order to present it later as a trustworthy source. Today, it is not even known how much underwater fracking is going on in the Gulf of Mexico or the amount of contaminated water being dumped in the ocean.
The EPA report confirms our worst fears: fracking does contaminate drinking water. This reality, on top of the difficulty to obtain data, should be enough to stop the use of this method until more information is available. Instead of encouraging fracking, California should follow New York’s lead and ban it.
Fracking helps the United States become independent from oil. However, concerns regarding drinking water, climate change and health are powerful enough reasons to be more than careful.