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EPA Probes Fracking Impact On Water

by Glenn Hess
November 14, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 46

Credit: Dreamstime
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has raised water contaminationconcerns.
Vertical image of a natural gas drilling rig with a field and flowers                  in front.
Credit: Dreamstime
Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has raised water contaminationconcerns.

EPA says it will disclose by the end of 2012 the preliminary results of its congressionally requested probe into whether the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing is polluting drinking water supplies. A final report will be issued in 2014. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, along with sand and chemical additives, deep underground to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock. EPA plans to examine drilling sites in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Louisiana, Texas, and Colorado. The oil and gas industry has long contended that fracking is safe and is effectively regulated by the states. But environmental activists say the process has contaminated groundwater and should be overseen jointly by federal and state agencies. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.), who authored the bill calling for the study, welcomed EPA’s announcement.“This EPA study will provide invaluable information to the public and policymakers interested in understanding the impact of hydraulic fracturing on our water resources,” Hinchey said in a statement.


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