Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Reading Beyond the Headlines: Fracking and Water Contamination

Photo courtesy of EDF

Scott Anderson says there are many environmental risks associated with fracking.

A report from UT’s Energy Institute on shale gas drilling found no link between hydraulic fracturing and water contamination, but the findings might not all be good news for oil and gas drilling.

“The report shines a light on the fact that there are a number of aspects of natural gas development that can cause significant environmental risk,” Scott Anderson, a policy advisor for the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that contributed to the study, told StateImpact Texas.

While the study found no direct link between water contamination and fracking itself, it did cite surface spills of fracturing chemicals as a risk to groundwater. It also found blowouts underground during fracking operations have been under-reported. In a blog post yesterday, Anderson enumerated some other continuing concerns.

Late last year the EPA released a draft report on the effects of fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming that appeared to find a link between fracking and water contamination.

The UT study found no such link, saying that poorly-constructed wells pose a danger to the environment. Those construction problems could happen in wells that aren’t fracked, and that’s a distinction that researchers like Anderson find important.

“It’s really important if we want to figure out what the real problems are and the real solutions are to use the terms correctly,” Anderson said.

Nevertheless, fracturing technology has spurred a massive increase in drilling throughout the country, focusing attention on those dangers.

“I think we’re seeing some classes of issues that are going to have to be dealt with no matter where it takes place, that are not so much hydraulic fracturing itself but well integrity and protection of water at the surface, as well as in the shallow subsurface,” Chip Groat, the lead researcher of the report told StateImpact Texas before the official release of the study.

Groat plans to follow up with more research on the effect of fracking, including possible links to earthquakes and air pollution.


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