As the EPA prepares to launch what we hope will be the first-ever credible, comprehensive study on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, a key component of oil and natural gas drilling, on Tuesday NRDC submitted formal comments on what we believe the study must explore. If done properly and given the attention it deserves – this study could give us an unprecedented look the full range of potential impacts to communities, including clean drinking water and public health.
Passions are running high on where and how drilling should happen and all eyes are on EPA to see what comes out of its study. Rightly so – fracking and drilling can literally take place in Americans’ own backyards. Communities have a right to defend themselves against any potential long-term health and environmental impacts from poorly regulated, careless oil and gas operations. They need to know they can count on EPA to protect them against big corporations bringing toxic chemicals into their homes – and that the government will hold them accountable for their actions.
The official public comment period on EPA’s study wrapped up Tuesday night, following a handful of hearings EPA hosted in fracking hot spots around the country to give residents a chance to weigh-in. Those public hearings came to a close earlier this month in Binghamton, NY, ground zero for the debate over proposed drilling in the state. NRDC was among the hundreds who showed up at the New York hearings to voice a range of concerns and opinions over the proposed drilling in the state, which has become the latest front in this national battle.
The official written comments we submitted elaborated on our comments to EPA in Binghamton. Bottom line: These big corporations should not be allowed to frack unless they can prove it’s safe for our health, our communities and our environment. In order to ensure this, we stressed the following main points to EPA before it undertakes this fracking study:
- The study must consider fracking’s impacts from START TO FINISH on the surrounding communities and environment. This means studying the entire process from exploration to production. It includes activities that go hand-in-hand with hydraulic fracturing, because at every stage there are health and environmental risks – from land-clearing, to drilling, trucking, and managing chemicals and waste before and after corporations frack.
- EPA must examine ALL potential health and environmental risks from fracking. Much of the concern over fracking relates to its impact to clean drinking water, but unfortunately we know the potential consequences do not stop there. EPA must evaluate risks of significant air pollution, marred landscapes, disrupted habitat, and altered community character.
- The study must evaluate the full scope of impacts to Americans’ drinking water. This means looking at the broad range of ways fracking may contaminate drinking water, including but not limited to impacts from chemicals in fracking fluids, spills and leaks on land, treatment and disposal of contaminated wastewater, land clearing, and stormwater runoff.
Additionally, we called on EPA to look at: the potential for fracking to cause earthquakes, risks to the produce and livestock in our nation’s food supply, the country’s capacity to treat and dispose of large amounts of wastewater from the process, and available technologies and best practices for minimizing risks.
EPA’s study could play a critical role in ensuring protection from the risks fracking poses to America’s drinking water, health, landscapes, and communities. By undertaking a broad, comprehensive study, we hope EPA will set a solid stage for our country to ensure no drills are allowed to come into our backyards unless companies prove it can be done safely.