||Yes, the environmental crazies (and their buddies in the media and congress) are trying for one last gasp before the Trump administration takes office and tries to bring some sanity back to government. In this case it is the continued un-scientific controversy about fracking.
This started out In 2009, when a handful of Dimock, Pennsylvania, homeowners sued a Houston-based company alleging their drinking water was tainted by fracking. This complaint and others like it from across the country prompted a five-year, $29 million Environmental Protection Agency study. The result was a draft report released in June 2015 which stated, “did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
Needless to say, the oil and gas industry was relieved, since fracking currently accounts for half of the nation’s crude oil production and two-thirds of the natural gas production.
So it was strange that between last year and last week the EPA changed its story line.
In its final report released last week, “Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States,” the EPA now says that fracking can affect drinking water resources “under some circumstances.”
Of course, it cited no cases where contamination was confirmed. Instead, the EPA determined that there is a scarcity of data on which to base this conclusion, and in the instances where data is available, there are too many uncertainties to conclude anything with confidence. What?
“Because of the significant data gaps and uncertainties in the available data, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle,” the study says. “We were, however, able to estimate impact frequencies in some, limited cases (i.e., spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids or produced water and mechanical integrity failures).”
On that thin possibility, environmentalists are claiming victory. Really?
Science had nothing to do with the change in terminology, according to Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, but politics did.
“The EPA already said in its draft report that there was no systemic effect on the water supplies from fracking. Nothing in the underlying science of the report was changed, it’s simply a change in their framing of it,” Stier said. “There’s been a concerted political campaign to apply pressure to the EPA. Certainly the report as it was written in draft form would have taken away any leg that activists had to stand on.”
Specifically, Stier says, certain members of Congress, environmental activists, and the EPA’s independent researchers pushed for the terminology flip-flop.
The draft report, and its fracking-favorable findings, remained status quo for more than a year.
In August of 2016, the environmentalist bandwagon ratcheted up. First, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. They complained in the 180-page letter that the statement about “widespread, systemic impacts” was not supported and needed revision. The board also wanted the EPA to add specific research on places with a track record of reported problems.
Then on Oct. 20, McCarthy got a nasty follow-up letter signed by 51 members of Congress. The letter blasted the 2015 draft report, the EPA’s public handling of the report, and urged the EPA to either revise the “widespread, systemic impacts” statement, or delete it.
Well, the EPA opted for easy route and hit the delete button, offering this explanation on its website
After receiving comments from the [Science Advisory Board], EPA scientists concluded that the sentence could not be quantitatively supported. Contrary to what the sentence implied, uncertainties prevent EPA from estimating the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Additionally, EPA scientists and the [Science Advisory Board], came to the conclusions that the sentence did not clearly communicate the findings of the report.
Stier believes the push by the congressmen and the review board is part of a much broader “keep it in the ground” movement.
The big picture opposition to fracking has nothing to do with drinking water. It’s opposition to humans taking energy out of the earth,” Stier explained. “These opponents realize they would not be able to win a political argument in the court of public opinion considering they don’t want us taking energy out of the ground. So they had to argue that this threatened our drinking water because that’s a way to get everyone to agree because we all want clean drinking water.” Changing the previous EPA conclusion is, according to Stier, a last leg for the anti-frackers on the eve of the Trump administration. “They’re hanging on by a thread to sow doubt about the safety of fracking. But I don’t think it’s a very strong leg to stand on because it’s simply a political document now.”
It is probably true that a hostile letter-writing campaign will likely not have the same effect on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt—President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to replace McCarthy at the EPA. Pruitt has been a frequent and effective critic of EPA overreach, and took a leading role in efforts to put the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan on hold.
The Trump administration doesn't seem to care about stupid claims by people who want the entire country to live the way they think we should. And I certainly believe we have had much to much meddling in everybody’s lives and everybody’s business by these politically correct people. After all, most people just want to live their lives and raise their families. And if you actually examine the facts, the United States has probably done more to protect the environment that any other nation on earth.