WASHINGTON — Oklahoma's senators joined eight other Republicans on Friday in urging the Environmental Protection Agency to require the strictest scientific standards in judging a high-stakes study over whether hydraulic fracturing contaminated ground water in Wyoming.
Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, joined a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson saying that the outcome of the agency's report could have a major financial impact on the oil and gas industry.
The senators say that should trigger a decision by Jackson that the study is a “highly influential scientific assessment” subject to “the most rigorous, independent and thorough external review process.”
Inhofe said Friday, “On December 8, I spoke with Administrator Jackson on the phone to ask if she would proceed with the Pavillion study under the requirements of a (highly influential scientific assessment). I have yet to receive her answer.
“I hope that after receiving this letter, Administrator Jackson will agree to our reasonable request. If she does not, the Pavillion study can have no credibility.”
In a draft report in December, the EPA for the first time drew a link between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. The report came after a three-year study of a well in Pavillion, Wyo., and concluded that chemicals found in the aquifer were consistent with those used in “fracking” jobs.
The draft report was opened for public comment and peer review. It was immediately denounced by the oil and gas industry — and questioned by some Wyoming state officials and the company that operated the well — but embraced by environmental groups that are pushing for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing, which has been used for more than 50 years on oil and gas wells, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to create cracks in shale
The industry and its supporters have argued that federal regulation is unnecessary because states have been doing the job well for decades and that there has not been a single documented case of groundwater contamination.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the 10 Republican senators who signed the letter on Friday, said in a statement, “The EPA appears to have jumped to the conclusion that fracking is to blame for contaminating groundwater based solely on preliminary data that has not been fully vetted.
“Given the significance and potential impacts this could have on our nation's energy supplies, it's crucial that the agency makes sure it has all of the facts before drawing any formal conclusions or making any policy decisions."
The EPA is in the midst of a separate, comprehensive review of the potential effects of fracking on water.