From the Washington Times
Methane study, EPA debunk claims of water pollution, climate change from fracking
After a 16-month investigation, state regulators Monday said that natural gas fracking, contrary to highly publicized claims, isn’t to blame for high methane levels in three families’ drinking water in a northern Pennsylvania town.
For fracking proponents, it was another piece of good news. The oil and gas industry still was unwrapping the federal government’s acknowledgment that fracking isn’t nearly as harmful to the environment as it previously claimed. By dramatically lowering its methane emissions estimates from natural gas drilling sites, the Environmental Protection Agency has made it much more difficult to argue that the fracking boom is accelerating climate change.
The developments Monday in Franklin Forks, Pa., also will make it much more difficult to argue that the wildly successful drilling method is harmful to drinking water.
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection now says there is no evidence to connect natural gas drilling with high levels of methane in private water wells in the small town, which sits within the Marcellus Shale region, one of the largest known natural gas deposits in the world and exhibit A of how fracking is transforming the American energy landscape.
The agency specifically says the gas is coming from elsewhere.
“The testing determined that the water samples taken from the private water wells contained gas of similar isotopic makeup to the gas in water samples taken from Salt Springs State Park,” which contains high levels of naturally occurring methane, the DEP said in a statement.
The Franklin Forks case attracted national attention and was held up by some environmentalists as another example of the dangers of fracking. It was also the subject of numerous media reports, including a Rolling Stone magazine photo essay that labeled one Franklin Forks family “Fracking’s Real-Life Victims.”
The family believed that nearby natural gas drilling was ruining their property and had rendered their water unusable and undrinkable. Similar claims have been made elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in other spots across the nation.
Thus far, however, there have been no confirmed cases of fracking contaminating water supplies — an acknowledgment that Lisa P. Jackson, as EPA administrator, made twice to Congress.
Fracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, uses massive amounts of water combined with sand and chemicals to crack underground rock and release trapped gas. It is being used extensively in states across the nation and is credited with putting the U.S. on a path toward North American energy independence within the next 10 to 15 years.
While environmental groups likely will dispute the Franklin Forks findings, Pennsylvania officials are making perfectly clear that nearby fracking simply could not be responsible for the elevated methane levels.