The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) flawed assessment that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States" must be urgently corrected, more than 200 environmental and public interest groups demanded in a letter (pdf) to EPA chief Gina McCarthy on Monday.
Not only did that language "seriously misrepresen[t] the findings of its underlying study," the letter charges that the EPA has "done the public a disservice" by helping promote a drilling method that has a known impact on water and air quality, and has been found to be a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
"News media quickly relayed this wholly inaccurate statement about the findings of the 1000-page study, much to the delight of the oil and gas industry and much to the satisfaction of the large financial interests invested in continued drilling and fracking for decades, to maximize U.S. oil and gas production," Monday's letter states.
What's more, the letter follows recent revelations that the White House was actively engaged in the "messaging" for the roll-out of the EPA's June 2015 draft report. The Obama administration has long been criticized for embracing and promoting fracking as part of its 'All of the Above' energy policy.
The groups cite a report issued by the agency's own Science Advisory Board (SAB) last month, which concluded that the EPA's report on the drilling method was inaccurate and misleading.
The SAB had recommended "that if the EPA retains this conclusion, the EPA should provide quantitative analysis that supports its conclusion that hydraulic fracturing has not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."
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Now, the coalition of national, statewide, and local groups, representing millions of members, are specifically calling on McCarthy to "resolve the three major problems with the controversial line." They write:
- The EPA did not provide a sense of what the agency would have considered "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States."
- The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because it presumes, without discussion, that looking on a national scale, over several years, provides an appropriate metric for evaluating the significance of known impacts.
- The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because the EPA failed to explain adequately the impediments to arriving at quantitative estimates for the frequencies and severities of the impacts already occurring.
The letter further urges the EPA to address the SAB recommendation that the agency "should include and fully explain the status, data on potential releases, and findings if available for the EPA and state investigations conducted in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Pavillion, Wyoming; and Parker County, Texas where many members of the public have stated that hydraulic fracturing activities have caused local impacts to drinking water resources."
"We expect," the letter concludes, "that the agency's final assessment will be clear about where thorough scientific analysis ends and any political considerations begin."
Signees include Food & Water Watch, United Native Americans, 350.org, Breast Cancer Action, Indigenous Environmental Network, Union of Concerned Scientists, and hundreds more.
The letter comes in the final months of a heated presidential contest, one in which observers have noted that the future of the fracking industry will be determined.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has said she wants to impose greater conditions on the practice and supports local ordinances—though she has refused to call for a national ban on fracking. At the same time, her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has promised fossil fuel executives that he would lift "all unnecessary regulations" on drilling.