There is evidence that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can affect aquifers and water supplies, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, but she is "not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
"As EPA administrator, I see the incredible potential of natural gas. I think it is important for our country, and I look at it through the lens of my job and duties, which is its potential to decrease pollution. So the only thing I see as our job is to work with the states, with regulators, with communities to respond to their concerns, because public acceptance of safe and responsible exploitation of this resource -- in a good way, exploitation in a good way -- is key to having it happen," Jackson told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Tuesday.
Committee members said confusion about EPA's ongoing study of fracking is creating uncertainty in the industry and among investors.
"If you talk to natural gas companies, they have no idea what's happening in this frack study, and there's a large sense of founded fear that natural gas fracking is about to be crushed," said Rep. James Lankford (R-OK).
But, according to Jackson, companies are aware of the study and have been cooperating with EPA (see Shale Daily, Nov. 10, 2010).
EPA's congressionally mandated fracking study will look at the potential adverse impact of the practice on drinking water and public health (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010). Results of the study are not expected until late next year, Jackson said.
Last month the Obama administration called for a broad-based panel to be formed to examine potential risks associated with fracking (see Shale Daily, April 4). That study would be in addition to the ongoing EPA fracturing study.
Also attempting to create stumbling blocks for the industry are protesters who have posing as concerned neighborhood activists at hearings and meetings about fracturing, according to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA).
"There is a very highly motivated and very mobile group that shows up at these different community meetings. It isn't always the people that live in those communities. They are highly motivated, they are highly organized and they are very vocal. They are addressing problems that really don't exist right now...what it's doing is it's driving a market perception or a polling perception out there that the Marcellus is dangerous and it's affecting drinking water, and it simply is not true."
The focus of the hearing was high gasoline prices at the pump and efforts to increase domestic production of oil and gas.