A PowerPoint presentation leaked to reporters at the LA Times and other news agencies implies that methane from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, did contaminate wells in Dimock, PA. The report comes from a regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Many believe the information was not disclosed as a result of pressure from lobbyists and political figures at the national level.
According to the PowerPoint, the regional mid-Atlantic office of the EPA did not agree with the national decision to close the investigation in Dimock. Susan Phillips, Energy Reporter for StateImpact PA and shale gas reporter and author, Tom Wilber explained the difficult nature of regulating fracking and natural gas.
They say the oil and gas industry is exempt from certain regulation such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and many hazardous waste laws.
“The industry has a lot on the line in terms of safe-guarding those exemptions,” said Wilber. Records do show that cases such as the water safety inspection in Dimock carry enough evidence to warrant more investigation, but the EPA will likely not be the party conducting the research. Wilber surmises that because the Obama administration has presented itself as “pro-natural gas,” they are shying away from asking the EPA to investigate further in many cases. Were the EPA to find a connection between shale gas drilling and poor water quality, the entire natural gas industry would be placed under scrutiny.
Shale gas continues to be controversial because many scientists that conduct research into possible hazards come back with many different results. This, Phillips believes, likely occurs based on who is funding the scientists’ research. Those that oppose the idea that fracking can contaminate water sources point to research that indicates a city’s water wells already contain methane or other harmful substances.
According to Wilber, the EPA will not be the organization investigating the Dimock case. Rather, the oil and gas industry will elect a research group to conduct the research.
“They were always very clear that their role was very limited,” says Phillips.