The tables turned on the gas industry today with the release of a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) connecting the dots between fracking and groundwater contamination in the state of Wyoming, located in the hear tof the Niobrara Shale basin.
The report is sure to leave many saying, “Well, duh!” and also asking, “What took them so long?” The perils of fracking for gas in the Niobrara Shale were made famous long ago by Debra Anderson's documenary “Split Estate.”
Report Comes on Heels of Citizen Action in Dimock, PA
The Wyoming report comes on the heels of a large citizen action involving a water delivery to 12 Dimock, Pennsylvania families, led by “Gasland” Director Josh Fox and actor Mark Ruffalo. The action centered around another case of water contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas. Cabot was delivering clean drinking water since 2008 to the families after it contaminated their water, but recently, the Pennsylvania DEP ordered that Cabot was no longer responsible for transporting water to these families.
Put another way, cases of water contamination are nothing “new.”
In fact, EPA first tied fracking to contaminated underground sources of drinking water in 1987. In a 25-year old investigative report, discovered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Earthjustice, the EPA outlines how fracking for shale gas contaminated a domestic water well in West Virginia.
More recently, four Duke University scientists released a study in May 2011 linking methane contamination to groundwater on fracking sites.
ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten wrote of the report:
The research was conducted by four scientists at Duke University. They found that levels of flammable methane gas in drinking water wells increased to dangerous levels when those water supplies were close to natural gas wells. They also found that the type of gas detected at high levels in the water was the same type of gas that energy companies were extracting from thousands of feet underground, strongly implying that the gas may be seeping underground through natural or manmade faults and fractures, or coming from cracks in the well structure itself.
Energy in Depth Redux?
We can probably safely assume an EID “refutation” of the EPA study is already in the works. After all, one of the fossil fuel industry's best friends, climate change denier, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), has already come out on the offensive against the EPA.
In response to the study, Inhofe stated, ”EPA's conclusions are not based on sound science but rather on political science.”
As the Senate's leading climate denier, Inhofe sure knows how to politicize science, and how to ignore real science in favor of industry excuses masquerading as science.
Update: As expected, Energy in Depth has responded to the EPA report in an article titled, “Six Questions for EPA on Pavillion.” This is, of course, par for the course for EID, which serves as the gas industry's go-to source for crisis communications responses like these.