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December 13, 2011
EPA Finds Drinking Water Tainted by Fracking
    by Robert Kropp

An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency finds that hydraulic fracturing is responsible for polluting the drinking water in Pavilion, Wyoming.

For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was responsible for contaminating the groundwater in a community.

Last week, after a three-year investigation undertaken at the request of residents of Pavilion, Wyoming, EPA released its 121-page draft analysis assessing groundwater quality and identifying potential sources of contamination.

EPA's analysis found that groundwater in the area's aquifer contained chemical compounds associated with fracking, an increasingly controversial method of natural gas extraction in which millions of gallons of water, as well as often toxic chemicals, are injected into the earth to crack open shale and allow natural gas to flow to the surface.

"EPA's analysis of samples taken from the Agency's deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels," the Agency reported.

Furthermore, analysis of the area's drinking wells found methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons as well as additional chemical compounds, "consistent with migration from areas of gas production," the analysis continued.

Area residents have been advised to use alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking.

EPA's draft analysis is available for a 45-day comment period, and fossil fuel advocates wasted no time in attacking what Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma characterized in a statement as "not based on sound science but rather on political science."

"This announcement is part of President Obama's war on fossil fuels and his determination to shut down natural gas production," Inhofe said.

Inhofe, in a 2005 speech before the Senate, called climate change "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." In his career as a politician, Inhofe has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. The most recent in a history of legislative activity on behalf of the industry was his introduction, in March, of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which seeks to limit EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In the aftermath of EPA's analysis, sustainable investors and other concerned shareowners, whose support of proposals addressing hydraulic fracturing reached 40% in the 2011 proxy season, are likely to accelerate their efforts for corporate disclosure of toxic chemicals used in the practice. And earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began requesting detailed information from oil and gas companies on chemicals used in fracking as well as their efforts to minimize its environmental impact.


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