Now the EPA's science advisors don't like their own report on fracking

The draft report on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the EPA is nearing the end of its more than five year journey and the findings were a major blow to the green energy crowd. Try as they might, there simply was no evidence of systemic contamination to ground water or other resources and the report essentially gives the practice a qualified thumbs up. That didn’t sit well with the major environmentalist donors to the Democrats, so plans have been in the works to sabotage the report. That showed up this week when the ad hoc panel of science advisors to the EPA released their own rebuttal, claiming that the wording of the report isn’t up to par. (Washington Post)

Science advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday challenged an already controversial government report on whether thousands of oil and gas wells that rely on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” systemically pollute drinking water across the nation.

That EPA draft report, many years in the making and still not finalized, had concluded, “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” adding that while there had been isolated problems, those were “small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”…

But in a statement sure to prolong the already multiyear scientific debate on fracking and its influence on water, the 30-member advisory panel on Thursday concluded the agency’s report was “comprehensive but lacking in several critical areas.”

It recommended that the report be revised to include “quantitative analysis that supports its conclusion” — if, indeed, this central conclusion can be defended.

This board isn’t even arguing that they have evidence to the contrary. (Which would have been a neat trick since such “evidence” doesn’t appear to exist.) They simply don’t like the positive nature of the wording and would like to see even more test results than have already been submitted. They’re not saying that they have proof that fracking is dangerous… they’re just saying that the industry hasn’t proven that it isn’t.

We’ve covered this subject so many times here that I’m nearly sick of writing about it. (Just follow the fracking tag at the bottom of the page for years of reports we’ve done on the technology.) Fracking has been challenged by environmental groups for years at both the state and federal levels. In Pennsylvania, where the process has led to a jobs boom, energy companies invited the state Department of Environmental Quality to test the practice by injecting special chemical markers which don’t occur in nature into the drilling fluid and then monitor fresh water wells all around the drilling sites. They did so for years and not a single instance of those markers making their way back up into the drinking water was detected. Not one single time. But that isn’t going to stop these guys.

The complaints came from the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). The chairman of the overall SAB, Peter Thorne, is a recent Obama appointee. Other members include such all star figures as Joseph Arvai, who refers to himself as “Mean Joe” and spends part of his spare time penning blog posts about how “pipelines as nation building exercises are nonsense.” Then there’s Steven Hamburg, the proud (double!) recipient of the US EPA Environmental Merit Award for climate change related work. The list goes on in a similar fashion. Yes, these indeed sound like an unbiased group of souls who are experts on deep shale drilling and hydraulic migration. (*cough*)

The specific sub-committee established to investigate fracking and groundwater is chaired by David A. Dzombak. His credentials in the field of water quality management are significantly more impressive, but he seemed to go into the process last year with a built-in attitude that the sentences about “no widespread, systemic impact” needed to be changed.

The fix was in on this pretty much from the beginning but they’ll have a hard time arguing the science. The few accidents which have happened at fracking sites speak to individual failures to follow best practices or simple human error. That’s never going to be entirely eliminated from mankind’s industrial activities, but fracking has proven itself safe and a net benefit to both the environment and the energy industry. It’s a bit late for the EPA to walk this one back now.

Fracking Protest