When an EPA study on fracking five years in the making was released last Thursday, both environmentalists and oil industry supporters scrambled to the far ends of the internet to claim their side's victory in the longstanding debate.
The 998 page paper claimed that, while fracking had in fact contaminated some water supplies, the EPA had been unable to find "evidence of widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources." The oil industry had taken this as all they need to prove that they'd been right about fracking all along: it's entirely safe.
According to professor Barry Rabe of the University of Michigan's Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, however, there are subtler nuances to how the study will affect federal policy. "This further removes EPA under this president or any other president from doing the big jump into fracking. We're not going to see any more big shifts in EPA on fracking on lands not held by the federal government."
However, while the government might not immediately lend fracking its open support, the report "does not provide any support for additional federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing," says Larry Nettles, head of an environmental law practice group in Houston. "Indeed, a lot of people would say the report confirms the current regulatory structure is sufficient to regulate the activity."
Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council has criticized some fracking advocates' reactions to the study as hastily jumping to conclusions. "The EPA did not say there were no widespread impacts, they said they found no evidence of widespread impacts. It is a messaging hurdle."
Regardless of how fracking policies develop, environmental consultants can help companies in a variety of industries understand and comply with EPA regulations.