A new study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found fracking to be more harmful than initially believed. The organization concluded the oil and gas extraction process has been responsible for contaminating drinking water.
The new finding represents a complete 180-degree pivot on the issue of water safety as it relates to fracking. A preliminary version of the research published last year by the same agency found “no evidence that fracking systemically contaminates water.”
Thomas A. Burke, a science adviser at the EPA, told the New York TImes the line was excluded from the final version of the study because “the scientists concluded it could not be quantitatively supported.”
The change comes at the conclusion of the study, which was based on the review of more than 1,200 cited scientific sources, independent peer review and 13 peer-reviewed reports commissioned as part of the study. It is the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind on the effects fracking has on water resources according to the New York Times .
Not only did the scientists exclude the former conclusion claiming there is no evidence fracking contaminates water, but the final study actually found the extraction technique to contribute to water contamination at every step of the process.
The EPA notes “data gaps and uncertainties” that make it difficult to fully evaluate the impact fracking has on water supplies and declined to offer any specific policy recommendations based on the findings.
The research comes at a bad time for those hoping it may put an end to fracking. Incoming President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to remove restrictions and regulations on the fracking industry and expand the practice.
In September, Trump told a conference of fracking executives in Pittsburgh “the shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for America,” and said be believed “no other business has been affected by regulation than your business.”
Trump has placed two pro-fracking appointments to his cabinet: Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who will head up the Department of Energy in the Trump administration, and Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, who will run the EPA.
Pruitt has railed against fracking regulations in the past and characterized an EPA study on the environmental impact of fracking in his state of Oklahoma as "politically motivated." He also argued fracking was more effective in driving down carbon emissions than the EPA’s regulations.