The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed on Tuesday that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminates drinking water—but claimed a lack of information makes it impossible to determine how widespread the risks are.
In a final report issued Tuesday, Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources, the EPA removed a finding included in a 2015 draft which indicated that fracking did not cause “widespread, systemic” harm. Fossil fuel industry lobbyists had praised that version of the draft—which also received misleading media coverage—claiming it vindicated the controversial drilling method that involves shooting chemical-laden water into shale rock at high pressure to release the gas trapped underneath.
And although Tuesday’s report stops short of making declarative statements about the severity or frequency of the impacts of fracking, environmental advocates say the confirmation that it contaminates water is enough. Green groups had accused the White House of inserting the now-removed clause, noting that President Barack Obama supports fracking as part of his “all of the above” energy policies.