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Science Advisors Challenge EPA Fracking Report

Fracking is exempt from many U.S. environmental laws. (U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons)
Fracking is exempt from many U.S. environmental laws. (U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons)
January 12, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Environmental Protection Agency's own science advisers are questioning the agency's finding that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas poses no "widespread systemic risks." In a draft report, the advisers say the conclusion of the EPA study is inconsistent with the data upon which the report was based.

Justin Wasser, campaign representative for the Sierra Club's Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground Initiative, said the scientific panel's findings are in line with many other investigations of fracking.

"When you see these peer-review studies," he said, "they end up all falling on the side of, 'Fracking is much more dangerous than the industry likes to admit.' "

The scientific advisers' findings are open to public comment through Jan. 21.

Among other points, the advisers questioned the EPA report's exclusion of sites where environmental damage has been linked to fracking. According to Wasser, those sites included towns such as Dimock, Pa., where the contamination made national news.

"I think it was definitely a major factor contributing to the shock and concern," he said, "when the EPA initially came out saying that there weren't systemic issues with contamination and this industry."

A draft of the EPA's study was released in June. The final report, expected sometime in the spring, could influence federal and state regulations of the oil and gas drilling industries.

Fracking is exempt from most federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act. Wasser said he is hopeful that the science advisers' findings could help change that.

"We would love for the federal government to roll back those exemptions," he said, "and treat the oil and gas industry as they treat other dangerous industries."

The Sierra Club hopes the state will respond to the findings by increasing regulation, he said, not only of gas drilling but of pipeline construction, which the group says poses risks of leaks and other environmental hazards.

The Scientific Advisory Board report is online at yosemite.epa.gov.

A draft of the E-P-A's study was released last June. The final report, expected sometime in the spring, could influence federal and state regulations of the oil and gas drilling industries.


Fracking is exempt from most federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act. Wasser is hopeful that the science advisers' findings could help change that.

"We would love for the federal government to roll back those exemptions and treat the oil and gas industry as they treat other dangerous industries."

He adds the Sierra Club hopes the state will respond to the findings by increasing regulation, not only of gas drilling but of pipeline construction, which the group says poses risks of leaks and other environmental hazards.

The Environmental Protection Agency's own science advisers are questioning the agency's finding that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas poses no "widespread systemic risks." Andrea Sears reports.

Andrea Sears reporting.

Wasser is at 814-242-3156. Scientific Advisory Board report at http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/ea5d9a9b55cc319285256cbd005a472e/d4210ba02ebef65185257f33005a0cc2/%24FILE/Report%20to%20Administrator-SAB%20Hydraulic%20Fracturing%20Research%20Advisory%20Panel-1-7-16%20draft.pdf.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA