Beltway Confidential

Update: EPA backs down on Wyoming fracking claims

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Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Environment,EPA,Analysis

Following up on my post from yesterday, the Associated Press has a longer report out on the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to not push for further environmental review of its earlier finding that the natural gas extraction process called fracking may have contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it is dropping its longstanding plan to have independent scientists review its finding that hydraulic fracturing may be linked to groundwater pollution in central Wyoming.

The EPA is standing by its findings, but state officials will lead further investigation into the pollution in the Pavillion area. The area has been a focus of the debate over whether fracking can pollute groundwater ever since the EPA’s initial report came out in late 2011.

“We stand behind our work and the data, but EPA recognizes the state’s commitment to further investigation,” said agency spokesman Tom Reynolds in Washington, D.C. The EPA will let state officials carry on the investigation with the federal agency’s support, he said.

Wyoming officials have been skeptical about the theory that fracking played a role in the pollution at Pavillion, but Reynolds expressed confidence the state could lead the work from here. He described the shift as the best way to ensure Pavillion-area residents have a clean source of drinking water.

Even so, industry officials who have been doubtful about the EPA findings all along praised the change as confirmation of their view that the science wasn’t sound.

“EPA has to do a better job, because another fatally flawed water study could have a big impact on how the nation develops its massive energy resources,” Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute, said in a release.

Read the whole thing here.

This is pretty big news from an environmental perspective. The Wyoming case would have been the first clear proof backed by the federal government that fracking could pollute groundwater, a claim that environmental activists have pushed aggressively. Instead the EPA is deferring to the state, which is highly skeptical of the agencies’ earlier findings.

 

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