The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracking has “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water. The EPA was asked by Congress to look at the potential impact of the oil and natural gas extraction technique on drinking water resources.
In a draft report released Thursday, environmental regulators said a review of data did turn upsome instances where "well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water." But such instances were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country, EPA said.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure below the earth’s surface to open up rocks and extract natural gas or oil. Critics have contended the procedure can contaminate water supplies and pollute the environment.
Related: Rising Levels of Toxic Gas Found in Homes Near Fracking Sites
"EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources," said Thomas Burke, EPA’s science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. "It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports."
Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said the report confirms that fracking is safe. "The EPA has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars only to conclude what state regulators have known for years. Local communities across the country have been inundated with misinformation from alarmists," he said in a statement.
Environmental groups disagreed.
"The EPA's water quality study confirms what millions of Americans already know — that dirty oil and gas fracking contaminates drinking water," Michael Brune, executive director of the the Sierra Club, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the EPA chose to leave many critical questions unanswered. For example, the study did not look at this issue under the lens of public health and ignored numerous threats that fracking poses to drinking water. The EPA must conduct a comprehensive study that results in action to protect public health."