As an organization, Food & Water Watch has worked hard with grassroots partners to get the Obama administration to recognize that fracking has turned rural communities into sacrifice zones. And despite significant evidence that we must keep all fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate chaos, the President has consistently supported fracking for oil and gas. So today’s appearance by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at the National Press Club to tout the Obama administration’s “environmental and public health legacy” is noteworthy for one area of this legacy she probably won’t highlight: the EPA’s complicity in dismissing the concerns of fracking-affected communities, especially with respect to drinking water contamination.
President Obama and Administrator McCarthy have both refused to meet with people who have had their lives upended by fracking contamination. An untold number of contamination cases have been settled by the industry’s lawyers, with plaintiffs under gag orders not to discuss their cases. The least the administration can do is meet with those who have not been silenced.
What’s more, the White House and EPA whitewashed fracking’s impacts on drinking water in June 2015, in a draft study that pronounced that at least the impacts are not “widespread, systemic,” as if that should be the measure. The study was toothless, relying on voluntary cooperation of the industry, and hamstrung by overall lack of access to data, including data in sealed court settlements. Because of the glaring disconnect between that dismissive top line and the body of the study, an independent Science Advisory Board asked the EPA in August to either remove its controversial language or provide a "quantitative analysis" to support it. Over 200 public interest and environmental groups and more than 50 members of Congress have also asked the EPA to justify its controversial dismissal of fracking’s impacts on drinking water.
Administrator McCarthy should finalize the study rapidly, before the president leaves office, and heed our recommendations. We are also asking the administration, one last time, to meet with fracking-affected communities and hear about how fracking has contaminated their water, despoiled their land, and upended their lives.
It’s not too late to change this administration’s environmental legacy for the better.