WASHINGTON – After years of research and analysis, a 1,399 page US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report concluded that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is safe. The technology widely deployed more than a decade ago in the US to extract shale oil and gas in fact does not create systemic risks for drinking water.
This is big
Now, this is big. It is a well known fact that the EPA is no friend of the US oil and gas industry. And yet, nothing was found. Notwithstanding large resources spent in studying the allegations indicating that fracking indeed created a systemic risk for humans and for agriculture, (supposedly chemicals injected into the soil during fracking seep into the water table causing pollution), the EPA found no evidence of systemic risk.
There are accidents
The EPA study did indicate that defective well construction in some instances caused chemicals seepage that led to water pollution. But this was due to the negligence of some energy companies that did not follow established well construction protocols.
Obviously there is a huge distinction between a few accidents caused by negligence resulting in faulty well construction and widespread accidents due to inherently unsafe fracking technologies.
What we get from the EPA report, and this is consistent with other findings, is that fracking is safe. As long as energy companies follow mandated well construction protocols, fracking does not threaten the water table.
How will Governor Cuomo react?
Now how will New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo react to this EPA report? Almost alone in America, (Maryland joined him later), Cuomo banned fracking in his state on the basis of public health concerns, even though the technology is used all over America, (Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, Wyoming, and other states).
And this long list includes neighboring Pennsylvania where the state authorities (under Republican as well as Democratic Governors) welcomed the shale gas industry that uses the very same fracking technologies deemed to be too risky on the other side of the state border. In fact, New York and Pennsylvania share the same, immensely large gas rich formation known as Marcellus Shale.
Pseudo science and politics
Cuomo’s argument was that more scientific review is necessary in order to be really, really sure that fracking is 100% safe. In truth, we all know that the Governor had to bend to the purely ideological, anti-carbon industry bias of New York State Democrats. He simply could not go against the wishes of his party; even though this is a costly decision.
Indeed, by banning fracking Cuomo forced many communities in the Western part of New York state, (this where the Marcellus shale gas is located), to give up millions of dollars in royalties that would otherwise come to them from energy companies, should fracking be allowed.
But now, after the EPA report made it clear that fracking does not pose any systemic risks to the water table, it will be a lot more difficult for Cuomo to tell the (rather poor) up state communities that he intends to keep the fracking ban.
Now everybody knows that there is no scientific basis for this prohibition.