In the aftermath of an illuminating story in the LA Times last week that revealed that staff at the Environmental Protection Agency believed that there was evidence that fracking activities in Dimock, PA had caused "significant damage" to water quality, calls are mounting for EPA to reopen its investigation.
As I blogged previously, although this interpretation of the data was presented to the highest level staff in the region in the spring of last year, EPA subsequently - and without explanation - closed its investigation into water quality concerns in Dimock and ceased deliveries of temporary drinking water to residents. (The presentation itself is now available online here.)
Now, the Scranton Times-Tribune - headquartered in the heart of northeastern Pennsylvania's shale country - has joined NRDC and others in calling on EPA to reopen its investigation "and use all of the technology at its disposal" to answer the question whether, as the staff presentation speculates, drilling and/or fracking itself contaminated drinking water in Dimock.
This is, after all, the key question that EPA's on-going national fracking study is intended to address. Not to mention that federal regulators owe it to the people in this beleaguered community to give them a comprehensive and complete investigation. At the very least, the agency owes the public a valid explanation why it decided to terminate its inquiry.
Meantime, as was widely reported yesterday, new details emerged about the now-infamous Hallowich case, indicating that the gas industry's well-known efforts to silence its victims reached new lows when Range Resources imposed a lifetime ban on the family's 7- and 10-year-old children from discussing fracking. Although now disclaimed by the company, the ban was evidently a part of its secret settlement with the children's parents over serious allegations of contamination and health impacts from its neighboring fracking activities. Some of the terms of that settlement have come to light following the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's on-going efforts to compel their disclosure.
Though clearly not directly related, both of these stories highlight what is for many a disturbing feature of oil and gas development in this country: the extent to which the public is denied full and accurate information about fracking's impacts. Like the widespread exemptions industry enjoys from many of our bedrock environmental laws, this creates not only an uneven playing field that advantages oil and gas over other industries (including clean energy), but foments growing distrust among the public.
It is time for the industry - and regulators - to come clean.