An appointed group of independent, expert scientists charged with peer reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) draft study on threats to drinking water from fracking have determined that one of the agency's main conclusions is not supported by the underlying data.
EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) appointed an advisory panel of scientists who have subject matter expertise in hydraulic fracturing and related scientific disciplines.
Specifically, the SAB Advisory Panel took issue with the EPA's statement that it did not find evidence that hydraulic fracturing mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. The SAB scientists stated that it "does not reflect the uncertainties and data limitations described in the body of the Report." They recommended that EPA revise this statement "to be more precise, and to clearly link these statements to evidence provided in the body of the draft Assessment Report" and to "discuss the significant data limitations and uncertainties, as documented in the body of the Report, when presenting the major findings."
This is a big deal. When the draft study was released in June of last year, we and our partners raised the same concern. The EPA's conclusion seriously misrepresents the findings of the study and the uncertainties and major data gaps that EPA found again and again. We agree with the SAB Advisory Panel that EPA should revise it in order to accurately communicate the science.
This flawed conclusion has grabbed a lot of attention and distracted from EPA's other major scientific finding from this study:
Hydraulic fracturing activities have contaminated drinking water.
Regardless of whether the impacts have been widespread or not, we can't forget that there are real people behind those numbers; people whose drinking water has been contaminated, who have feared for their health and safety and that of their family and friends, whose homes have lost value, and whose lives have been upturned. Even one incident is too many.
EPA has a responsibility to those people and to all Americans to carry out its scientific research according to the highest standards, and to communicate the results faithfully and accurately.