FARMINGTON — A spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association says a new study that found hydraulic fracturing has caused minimal harm to drinking water is vindication for the industry.
“It’s great news for New Mexico and great for our country,” said Wally Drangmeister of the draft assessment released by the Environmental Protection Agency late last week. “This is what the industry has maintained all along. The EPA report provides a basis to counter some of the hyperbole that comes from (conservation groups). We’ve seen some people who try to leverage scant amounts of data to demonize fracking as an evil when that’s clearly not the case.”
The study reported hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”
In a statement, Thomas A. Burke, the EPA’s science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of the agency’s Office of Research and Development, said the draft assessment is a landmark study on the potential impact fracking has on surface and ground water in the U.S.
“EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” Burke said. “It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports.”
The 998-page draft study states the risk to drinking water by fracking is not a problem overall.
“Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells,” the report states. “The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”
However, the EPA report cited potential drinking water risks from the oil and gas industry, including water withdrawals in areas of low water availability, spills of fracking fluids and produced water, drilling directly into underground water sources, underground migration of liquids and gases and poor treatment and discharge of wastewater.
Fracking involves injecting chemically treated water deep into the ground. The process also produces wastewater that has to be treated, disposed or reused. The report cites as many as 134 different chemicals known to be present in produced water.
Drangmeister said the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s members share the environmental concerns many critics of the industry hold. Overall, he said, the EPA report is a reflection of the stiff regulations and the compliance of the industry.
“Our members live in and work in this community,” he said. “We drink the water, we breath the air and we ensure that the work is done safely each and every day. There is integrity in this industry, and while it’s not a perfect record … I think it reflects the integrity of the work the industry does.”
Rachel Conn, executive director of Taos-based water conservation organization Amigos Bravos, said that while she has not yet seen the report, the study’s findings may not have considered every potential effect.
“While I haven’t seen the report, it does prove at least on the localized level that there’s impacts to water quality by the oil and gas industry,” she said.
This article was written by James Fenton from The Daily Times, Farmington, N.M. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.