Maryann Tobin

The Obama administration caved to pressure from the oil and gas industry Thursday and had the EPA abandon an investigation that directly linked contaminated groundwater to deadly fracking pollution.

Had the Environmental Protection Agency been allowed to pursue their evidence to its ultimate conclusion, the Obama administration would likely have been forced to take steps to end to the explosive expansion of hydro-fracking throughout America.

What the oil and gas industry bought by objecting to the EPA findings is time to squeeze as much profit as they can out of an environmentally unsustainable endeavor.

The preliminary Environmental Protection Agency report on fracking fluid water contamination was released in 2011 and “sent shockwaves through the oil and gas sector, by finding that hydraulic fracturing fluids used in shale gas drilling had likely contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming,” Reuters reported.

Local residents “complained for more than seven years that their water began to reek of chemicals since fracking occurred in their neighborhood,” according to a Fox News report.

In response, the state of Wyoming has had to supply clean drinking water cisterns to nearly two dozen families in the rural town of Pavillion. But that could be just the beginning of what is likely to be a growing problem.

Wyoming’s solution to fracking fluid pollution does not address the fact that underground aquifers are not isolated. Not only can they flow into more distant ground water sources, the natural cycles of evaporation, rain, and natural weather events like floods and drought can spread the fracking pollution everywhere.

What happens when fracking fluid contaminates the drinking water supply of more populated areas and effects thousands, or millions of people? Will individual states be able to pay for and ship clean water to entire cities? Or will the federal government have to step in with funding for widespread drinking water disasters?

With so many parts of the country already facing drought, water shortages and their own hydro-fracking pollution, where will local governments find enough clean drinking water for their populations?

If you thought you were safe from fracking fluid contamination because drilling has been banned in your state, think again. Crops grown with poisoned water becomes food for humans, wildlife and livestock destined for dinner tables.

Even those living hundreds of miles from fracking operations are not immune to its effects. Contaminated water has already made its way into the food chain. Cows are dropping dead and farmers are getting sick in areas where oil and gas companies are polluting the water supply with hydro-fracking.

Why is fracking so bad for people and the environment?

The process of hydraulic fracturing is a natural resource hog and creates pollution. For each well, as much as 3 million gallons of clean water is contaminated with up to 600 chemicals to make fracking fluid. That fluid, which contains known carcinogens, is then forced into horizontal underground pipes under such high pressure it has been known to cause earthquakes.

About 50 percent of fracking pipes leak, in some cases almost immediately. When they leak, they not only pollute drinking water supplies, they release methane gas, which is more toxic than carbon dioxide.

Fracking contamination to the water supply is especially deadly because of a special pollution exception to the Clean Water Act reserved for the oil and gas industry. It’s called the Halliburton Loophole.

As The New York Times notes:

“Among the many dubious provisions in the 2005 energy bill was one dubbed the Halliburton loophole, which was inserted at the behest of — you guessed it — then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a former chief executive of Halliburton.

It stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s, it involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, into underground rock formations to blast them open and release natural gas.”

Why the fracking stakes are so high

The reason scientists spend so much time looking for water on other planets is because water is the source of all life. In their quest for profits, oil and gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing are irreparably damaging the source of all life on earth.

Unlike the financial market meltdown in 2008 that led to a multi-trillion dollar taxpayer handout to Wall Street bankers, there is no way to recover from or otherwise clean up the contamination fracking fluids pour into our drinking water supply. The damage is permanent.

The fact that the oil and gas industry won this battle with the Obama administration and the EPA does not mean this war is over. Fracking is simply too deadly to be allowed to continue, no matter what oil industry lobbyists claim.

Nothing is more important to the survival of life on this planet than protecting our water supply, because all the money in the world will be useless if there is no clean water left to buy.

Author’s note: This report includes opinions and commentary based on independent analysis of official documents and public information.


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