The EPA just threw out five years of fracking safety research to appease green extremists. Although early drafts found no evidence that fracking has had a "widespread, systemic" impact on drinking water, the final report claims that there isn't "enough information to make a broad conclusion."
How absurd. An honest look at the science should have environmentalists waving the white flag in their fight against fracking. It's time for both the EPA and green crusaders to quit this political charade and recognize that fracking technology has boosted the economy, helped wean America off imported oil and gas, and dramatically reduced CO2 emissions.
In 2015, a draft of the EPA's report found that fracking operations have not "led to widespread, systemic impact on drinking water." Since then, the underlying science in the report hasn't changed. But the EPA, under pressure, adjusted its conclusion to suit critics to the left even of the administration, who would have been left without a leg to stand on in their efforts to sow doubt about fracking safety.
The findings weren't surprising. In 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded she is "not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water." And in 2013, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he has "not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater."
But green activists and their allies in Washington were quick to contest the draft report, ignoring the fact that EPA researchers relied on more than 950 sources — from scientific analyses to peer-reviewed papers — for their report. Do environmentalists really expect us to believe the agency, no friend of the oil and natural gas industry, is in the pocket of Big Fracking? The academic community is in agreement on fracking; only activists are fracking deniers.
For example, a 2013 Duke University study of the Fayetteville Shale area in Arkansas found that shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing had no impact on groundwater.
In 2015, scientists analyzing the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania found fracking activity harmless, concluding that there was "no evidence for direct communication with shallow drinking water wells due to upward migration from shale horizons."
And this year, a three-year study by the University of Cincinnati found that fracking did not affect water supplies — despite researchers' best efforts to find a link. Indeed, lead scientist Amy Townsend-Small said her team was planning to keep the results under wraps because their funders were hoping the "data could point to a reason to ban" fracking.
Attempts to undermine fracking threaten America's ability to tap into significant energy benefits. In 2012, oil and natural gas production saved the average U.S. household at least $1,200. All told, the industry supports almost 10 million jobs and represents 8 percent of the U.S. economy — and those figures are only predicted to grow, especially if OPEC keeps its promise to reduce production.
Moreover, fracking has strengthened America's energy independence. As the world's leader in oil and natural gas production, the Unites States can now scale back its energy purchases from less-friendly nations.
And despite the green movement's outrage, fracking is actually helping the environment. That's because the boom in gas and oil production has enabled us to substitute natural gas for coal. As a result, last year, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit their lowest level in nearly three decades, according to the U.S. Energy Administration.
Environmentalists should stop denying science. Fracking boosts our economy, strengthens energy independence, and protects our environment. It's a shame that, like the most extreme green activists, the EPA is only willing to embrace science when it serves an anti-fossil-fuel agenda.
Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.