New documents have emerged that show the EPA downplayed the risks of fracking in a landmark 2015 report. The last-minute changes made by the EPA are documented in a story by the public radio show Marketplace and American Public Media. Questions remain as to who made the changes and why.
The EPA’s long-awaited report was supposed to settle the question once and for all on whether fracking for oil and gas damages water supplies—using science not politics. In Pennsylvania, there were already more than 250 documented cases in which fracking damaged private drinking water supplies.
But when the EPA’s draft report was issued in June 2015, the executive summary read that fracking did not cause “widespread systemic impacts” on drinking water. The report was cheered by industry and spurned by environmentalists.
However, reading the body of the report—and the science—told a different story. The EPA’s own Science Advisory Board then issued a critical review of the EPA’s headline, saying the language confused the public and needed clarification.
Michael Halperin of the Union of Concerned Scientists sought documents from the EPA through a right-to-know request. What Halperin learned was that somebody made last-minute changes to the executive summary. Instead of highlighting the risks, they were downplayed.
This story comes from our content partner StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WITF and WHYY covering the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy.