GAO concludes risks from drilling unknown; regulators say fracking isn't an issue
PITTSBURGH — Shale gas and oil drilling pose environmental and public health risks, but the extent of those risks is unknown, the Congressional Government Accountability Office says in a new study.
The GAO, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, reviewed existing scientific reports on shale drilling, and spoke to state regulators, industry experts and environmental groups.
Regulators from Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas said state investigations found that the part of the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has not been identified as a cause of groundwater contamination, the report notes.
Travis Windle, a spokesman for the industry group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, suggested that the GAO report, “like so many other independent reports, determines that hydraulic fracturing is safe and that this critical, tightly-regulated technology has never impacted groundwater.”
But the GAO also noted that, according to studies and publications, “underground migration of gases and chemicals poses a risk of contamination to water quality.”
George Jugovic, president of the Pennsylvania environmental group PennFuture, said he doesn't think the public cares which specific part of the drilling process poses a threat to health or the environment.
“I don't think it serves the industry well to shy away from what is a legitimate public concern,” Jugovic said.
Hydraulic fracturing has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas but has also raised concerns about pollution.
In a separate report, the GAO said both federal and state agencies face challenges in regulating shale oil and gas wells, such as a lack of data and limited legal authority. But they also found that some states — such as Ohio and Pennsylvania — have strengthened regulations in recent years, based on recommendations from independent reviews.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Steel’s 2Q loss beats analysts’ estimates
- Pittsburgh Brewing tries to reconnect with region, return to glory days
- Consol Energy posts $25 million loss despite gas gains
- EPA hearings to bring coal debate to Pittsburgh streets
- Hiring in shale industry shifts to engineering, construction workers
- Hotels, restaurants lead job additions in Pittsburgh region
- Fair Trade profitable for coffee venture
- Central Blood Bank parent in merger talks with Florida system
- Construction of $500M power plant in South Huntingdon stalled
- Plug-in Accord makes gas station visits rare
- Dollar Tree set to spend $8.5B on Family Dollar