EPA officials pressured to weaken oil and gas science and environmental protections

On the eve of Independence Day, when I'd like to celebrate everything I love about America, I got a powerful reminder of something I don't like: efforts by a polluting industry--and its friends in government--to squash scientific investigation intending to determine whether people are being harmed by toxic contamination of their drinking water.

ProPublica published an important article today about the EPA's abandonment of drinking water contamination investigations around the country.

As I blogged last week, there is now a pattern of EPA stepping down from important cases of drinking water contamination that are linked to oil and gas operations. Communities across America where oil and gas development is taking place want to know why EPA has abandoned these cases, whether EPA can be trusted in any other scientific investigations--such as the larger fracking study now underway, and who they can rely on to protect their drinking water.

ProPublica interviewed "high-ranking agency officials" and reports that these officials "acknowledge that fierce pressure from the drilling industry and its powerful allies on Capitol Hill – as well as financial constraints and a delicate policy balance sought by the White House -- is squelching their ability to scrutinize not only the effects of oil and gas drilling, but other environmental protections as well."

This pressure is not only anti-science, but it wastes agency resources--and taxpayer money. For example, ProPublica reports that Senator James Inhofe demanded repeated briefings from EPA officials and "barraged the agency with questions on its expenditures in Pavillion, down to how many dollars it paid a lab to check water samples for a particular contaminant."

EPA has a Scientific Integrity Policy. Sadly, the agency may be ignoring it.

NRDC has a long history of fighting for science as the basis for decisions about public health and the environment. We'll continue this fight against efforts by the oil and gas industry and its allies in government to derail legitimate scientific investigation of the impacts that oil and gas development, including fracking, has on clean air, clean water, and public health. Without science, the full extent of risks are unknown and cannot be protected against.