The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a Thursday report that it found no evidence fracking has a “widespread” impact on drinking water.
The EPA report concluded that there are above and below ground mechanisms by which fracking have the potential to impact drinking water resources, but that the number of identified cases were “small” compared to the number of fracking wells.
“We did not find evidence that these mechanisms [of potentially affecting water] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” the report said.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to extract oil or gas. Environmentalists say fracking poses health risks, often citing the affects on drinking water reserves.
In its report, the EPA notes that its findings could have been limited because of an insufficient amount of data and the presence of other possible contaminates that made it impossible to conclude fracking’s effects on certain areas.
Still, members of the energy industry were already celebrating the report.
“With this new report, it couldn’t be clearer that shale development is occurring in conjunction with environmental protection and the claims by anti-fracking activists have been thoroughly debunked,” a post from the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s outreach campaign said.
Other than in a few select areas, the report founf fracking’s potential impact on drinking water quality is relatively low, but not eliminated.
“Future problems could arise if hydraulic fracturing increases substantially in areas with low water availability, or in times of water shortages,” the report said.
In March, the federal government unveiled its first set of fracking safety mandates. Affecting only federal and Indian lands, the Bureau of Land Management rule includes provisions for ensuring groundwater protection though well integrity standards, increased transparency by requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals they use, higher storage standards, and requiring companies submit more detailed information on preexisting wells.
The industry has decried the regulatory changes as redundant and based on unsubstantiated concerns. Two groups, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed a lawsuit against the rule in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.