Last week, the EPA came out with a draft report stating that there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing—better known as “fracking”—activities have led to widespread, systematic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. While this report sparked even more debate over an already contentious issue, the EPA’s approach leverages evidence generated by different methods of fracking research conducted at the state level. This balanced and representative approach ultimately gives more credence to the assertions in the report.
States that have shale gas formations disagree on the “right” way to proceed with fracking. As a result they have taken different approaches to researching and regulating it that have produced a range of results.
For example, Maryland and New York established special commissions that led studies and reviews of health publications on emerging fracking technology to determine how it would regulate fracking. These efforts produced data from scientific modeling and analyzed published research to conclude that the human and ecological risks were too high for fracking to be pursued now. As a result, these states have opted to take a “wait and see” approach, enacting fracking moratoriums that bar these states from issuing drilling permits in the coming years.
On the other hand, states like Pennsylvania and Texas have chosen to allow hydraulic fracturing while having drilling companies pay an impact fee or severance tax to help cover the local impacts of drilling. This approach has produced data at active well sites that has enabled these states to adjust regulations as needed.
Thanks to these different approaches, EPA researchers had access to literature reviews and scientific modeling as well as real groundwater data points in varying shale developments and regulatory bodies. This approach resulted in a more representative and balanced analysis that can help guide decisionmakers as they regulate the industry in their own states.
Solving complex problems, like ensuring our nation’s energy future, requires all critical perspectives on an issue to be considered in order to establish a path forward. By continuing to produce and analyze evidence from all sides of the debate, this multifaceted approach has great potential to secure health and safety while driving innovation.