Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a progress report on a highly-anticipated study it is undertaking on the controversial issue known as fracking. Full results will not emerge until 2014, but some indicators were quite interesting.
The study is very broad in scope, analyzing hundreds of natural gas and oil wells across the nation, with a view toward identifying possible risks. When complete, the study is expected to become a standard reference for legislation in the future.
In the progress report, the Washington Times reports, the EPA outlined the five parts of the fracking “water cycle” that it is investigating. These are the results of large-scale water withdrawals from the earth, after-effects of fracking fluid spills on the surface, the relationship between fracking’s “injection” phase and drinking water reservoirs, the issue of “flowback” or waste-water, and finally, standards of treating this waste-water.
Thus far, the EPA has investigated 70 domestic water wells, 15 monitoring wells, and 13 surface water sources. It has focused on wells in Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The fact that the early progress report did not contain anything significantly negative is likely an encouraging sign for the fracking lobby.
"It signals that the Obama administration has no real appetite for additional federal regulations until 2014 at the earliest," said Nitzan Goldberger, a natural gas analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. "That's good news for the oil and gas guys."