U.S. EPA unlikely to step up fracking enforcement efforts for now -analysts by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, January 5, 2014, Chicago Tribune
Federal regulators are unlikely to step up enforcement of potential water contamination cases linked to natural gas drilling – despite new concerns about water safety – given a lack of political will and limited resources to pursue such cases, analysts said.
A report quietly made public on Christmas Eve by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog brought back into the spotlight concerns about the effects on water quality from the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The report said the EPA was justified in issuing an emergency order in 2011, asking the oil and gas driller Range Resources to improve monitoring and provide clean water to a family in Parker County, Texas, whose water supply had been contaminated with methane as a result of nearby fracking.
The EPA Inspector General also criticized the agency for backing off enforcement of the complaint in 2012. … The Texas contamination case was the third instance in which the EPA backed off of an initial assertive stance and instead deferred to local regulators. … In 2012, the EPA inspected 870 energy extraction sites and concluded enforcement actions against just 53. The agency investigated 836 coal-fired electric units for potential air pollution incidents and controlled 461 of them. One former EPA official said investigating energy extraction sites requires a lot of money and thousands of staff – both in short supply given tight budgets. “To do a case where it involves taking significant environmental samples in the field – it is very expensive,” the official said. [Emphasis added]