EPA Says Fracking May be to Blame for Pollution

by The Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
announced Thursday for the first time that fracking - a
controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas
wells - may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.
    The draft finding could have a chilling effect in states trying
to determine how to regulate the process.
    The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping
pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures
and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.
    The EPA's found that compounds likely associated with fracking
chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath a Wyoming
community where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.
    Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the
EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.
    The EPA announcement has major implications for the vast
increase in gas drilling in the U.S. in recent years. Fracking has
played a large role in opening up many reserves.
    The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but
environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites
say it has poisoned groundwater.
    The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of
opening up its findings for review by the public and other
scientists.
    "EPA's highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion
residents have access to safe drinking water," said Jim Martin,
EPA regional administrator in Denver. "We look forward to having
these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and
public review process."
    The EPA also emphasized that the findings are specific to the
Pavillion area. The agency said the fracking that occurred in
Pavillion differed from fracking methods used elsewhere in regions
with different geological characteristics.
    The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water
aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. Elsewhere, drilling
is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of
groundwater that anybody would use.
    In Colorado, regulators are considering requiring oil and gas
companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking
    The public and industry representatives packed an 11-hour
hearing on the issue on Monday. They all generally supported the
proposal but the sticking point is whether trade secrets would have
to be disclosed and how quickly the information would have be
turned over.
    Industry representatives say Colorado and Texas are the only
states to have moved to consider disclosing all fracking chemicals,
not just those considered hazardous by workplace regulators.