Greens loathe fracking. To hear them tell it, the innovative drilling technique is befouling our nation’s water while heating up our planet, but a new EPA report tells a very different story, concluding that hydraulic fracturing hasn’t been linked with any “widespread, systemic impact on drinking water.” The WSJ reports:
The report is the federal government’s most comprehensive examination of the issue of fracking and drinking water, and it bolsters the position staked out by the energy industry and its supporters: that fracking can be carried out safely and doesn’t need to pose a threat to water.
While there have been some cases involving spills and leaking wells, the spread of fracking didn’t cause extensive damage to groundwater resources, the EPA found. The four-year study noted that there were certain “potential vulnerabilities” to water supplies that needed to be addressed, including ensuring wells are well-built and wastewater is disposed of properly.
Environmentalist fears over groundwater contamination stem from the fact that the vertical portion of shale wells frequently pass through local water tables on their way to much lower depths, where they’ll extend horizontally into shale rock. These vertical well bores are encased in cement to prevent any of the fracking fluid—injected at high pressure to break up shale rock to access oil and gas—or the resultant hydrocarbons then extracted from leaking into aquifers, and, if done right, that minimizes the risk. Firms then have to store wastewater from fracking, but again, diligence here can prevent leaks into local water supplies.
All of this is to say that hydraulic fracturing isn’t predisposed to contaminating water sources. Negligence abounds in every industry, and local authorities need to have clear regulations in place to ensure companies are crossing their t’s and cementing their wells properly, but the risk of spills can be managed, and despite green claims doesn’t pose an existential threat to the industry.
Now that its biggest allegation against fracking has been debunked, will the environmental movement move to embrace shale? They ought to—fracking has unleashed a flood of natural gas here in the U.S., displacing much-dirtier coal. But these are greens we’re talking about, and as much as they like to tout “settled science” when it suits their agenda, they’ve proven to be quick to eschew empirical evidence when it doesn’t fit into their worldview. For those of us living in the real world, this new report can only be seen as good news. The drilling technique that’s kicked off an American energy renaissance isn’t the environmental boogeyman some made it out to be.