When Will EPA Meet with Residents Harmed by Fracking?

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When Will EPA Meet with Residents Harmed by Fracking?

EPA chief Gina McCarthy speaks to the AgriBusiness Council of Kansas City in July of 2014. Though McCarthy has met with numerous leaders of the oil and gas industry during her tenure, she continues to find no time in her schedule to meet with individuals and families whose water has been contaminated by fracking toxins. (Photo: EPA/flickr/cc)

For over a year now, residents from communities affected by drilling and fracking for natural gas have tried to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Specifically, residents from three affected communities – Dimock, Pennsylvania; Pavillion, Wyoming; and Parker County, Texas—have tried to meet with McCarthy to discuss the EPA’s failure to complete the critical investigations into the connection between their contaminated drinking water and the gas development in their communities.

 

On October 10, residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania and advocacy organizations held a press conference in front of EPA. During this event, Tom Reynolds, the Associate Administrator of the Office of Public Affairs at EPA, came down to speak with the residents and he promised to respond with available dates for a meeting with Gina McCarthy by Friday, October 17. But we still have not heard back from him.

 

In July 2013, an EPA region 3 whistleblower leaked a Powerpoint presentation to the Los Angeles Times showing that local EPA officials were concerned about contamination in the drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The presentation showed that the contamination was likely caused by gas drilling and fracking, contradicting findings of EPA water testing deeming the water in Dimock safe to drink. The EPA had also returned the Pavilion water contamination investigation to the state of Wyoming and dropped its litigation in Parker County, Texas –two other cases where evidence showed that the water contamination was likely caused by drilling and fracking, revealing a disturbing trend.

 

As a new administrator of the EPA, the residents and advocates wanted to meet with Gina McCarthy, update her on what had happened in these three communities and make sure she understood that residents were still living with contaminated water. Last September, affected residents delivered 250,000 petitions calling on the EPA to reopen the investigations and met with EPA officials in the public affairs office, but Administrator McCarthy did not attend the meeting. Since that time, she has refused to meet with the residents despite formal requests, thousands of emails and phone calls from people across the country, and even in-person requests of the administrator at public events.

 

At Food & Water Watch, we recently reviewed Administrator McCarthy’s public schedule and it shows that in the past year she has met with the CEO of BP twice; the head of the two major gas industry trade associations, the American National Gas Association (ANGA) and the American Gas Association (AGA); the head of the American Chemistry Council, which uses the natural gas liquids; and the CEOs of two major electricity utilities that depend on fossil fuels—Exelon and NRG.

 

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It is disturbing that Gina McCarthy made the time to meet with the oil and gas industry, but not with the residents who are living with contaminated water. The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, not to protect the interests of oil and gas industry. Call on Administrator McCarthy to uphold the EPA’s mission and ask her to meet with the residents affected by drilling and fracking.

Emily Wurth

Emily Wurth is Food & Water Watch’s Water Program Director. Emily conducts research and promotes policies at the local, state and federal level to help protect the nation’s water systems as public assets, and to safeguard the country’s water resources. Emily has a B.A. in international studies and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She can be reached at ewurth(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

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