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
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
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.
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."
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