Late last week the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a preliminary report that they’ve found dangerous levels of toxic chemicals related to hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) in aquifers near drinking water wells in the heavily fracked town of Pavillion, Wyoming. The EPA is currently conducting a study into the impact of fracking on drinking water, and the full study is expected to be finished at the end of 2012. In reaction to the release of the investigation in Pavillion, the oil and gas industry has gone on the full defensive over the weekend releasing statements that attempt to rip apart the EPA’s findings.

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The EPA released their preliminary findings on Thursday and the study is now open for a 45-day period of public comment and independent verification. The EPA monitored two deep wells that reached into the aquifer, as well as private drinking water in the Pavillion area. In their investigation they found “synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels.” This investigation is one of the first highly publicized government studies that has confirmed what people in communities where fracking occurs have already said – that the process severely contaminates drinking water reserves.

In response to the study the oil and gas industry has been worked into a bit of a tizzy releasing statements left and right attempting to discredit the study and its methods. “Unsubstantiated statements coming from the EPA today stretch the data and cause unwarranted alarm and concern about a proven technology that allows our industry to safely extract oil and natural gas. The EPA’s announcement is irresponsible and leads us to call into question its motives,” said the president of the Wyoming Petroleum Association, Bruce Hinchey. Senator James Inhofe (Republican from Oklahoma and noted friend of dirty energy) came out with guns blazing after the announcement. Inhofe declared that the investigation wasn’t “based on sound science but rather on political science,” and followed that up by saying the study’s findings “are premature, given that the Agency has not gone through the necessary peer-review process, and there are still serious outstanding questions regarding EPA’s data and methodology.”

The EPA has been open about the fact that this study is preliminary and are now opening up the findings for a proper peer review period. The oil and gas industry and especially Encana, the company behind the Pavillion wells, has sought over the weekend to back up Inhofe’s statements. It’s unfortunate that Inhofe, Encana and the oil and gas industry seem to be attempting to discredit the EPA’s findings not with their own separate peer reviewed studies of drinking water resources close to fracking sites but with unsubstantiated statements about political motives and false statements of misguided evidence.

+ The EPA Pavillion Study

Via The LA Times