FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Inside the Censored EPA Fracking Water Study

by STEVE HORN

DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of an Obama Administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fracking groundwater contamination PowerPoint presentation describing a then-forthcoming study’s findings in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

The PowerPoint presentation reveals a clear link between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas in Dimock and groundwater contamination, but was censored by the Obama Administration. Instead, the EPA issued an official desk statement in July 2012 – in the thick of election year – saying the water in Dimock was safe for consumption.

Titled “Isotech-Stable Isotype Analysis: Determinining the Origin of Methane and Its Effets on the Aquifer,” the PowerPoint presentation concludes that in Cabot Oil and Gas’ Dimock Gesford 2 well, “Drilling creates pathways, either temporary or permanent, that allows gas to migrate to the shallow aquifer near [the] surface…In some cases, these gases disrupt groundwater quality.”

Other charts depict Cabot’s Gesford 3 and 9 wells as doing much of the same, allowing methane to migrate up to aquifers to unprecedented levels – not coincidentally – coinciding with the wells being fracked. The PowerPoint’s conclusions are damning.

“Methane is released during the drilling and perhaps during the fracking process and other gas well work,” the presentation states. “Methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking and other gas well work…Methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.”

Despite the findings, the official EPA desk statement concluded any groundwater contamination in Dimock was “naturally occurring.”

“EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern,” read the EPA desk statement. “EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.”

Two EPA whistleblowers recently approached the American Tradition Institute and revealed politics were at-play in the decision to censor the EPA’s actual findings in Dimock. At the heart of the cover-up was former EPA head Lisa Jackson.

Former EPA Head Lisa Jackson’s Role in Censoring Report 

EnergyWire‘s Mike Soraghan explained the studies were dropped – according to one of the unidentified whistleblowers close to the field team in Dimock – “out of fear the inquiries would hurt President Obama’s re-election chances.”

Though the two EPA career employees’ initial findings pointed to water contamination in Dimock – as seen in the PowerPoint presentation – their superiors told them to stop the investigation, in turn motivating them to blow the whistle.

One of the whistleblowers said he came forward due to witnessing “patently unethical and possibility illegal acts conducted by EPA management.”

“I have for over a year now worked within the system to try and make right the injustice and apparent unethical acts I witnessed. I have not been alone in this effort,” the unnamed whistleblower told Soraghan. “I took an oath when I became a federal employee that I assume very solemnly.”

At the center of the management team overseeing the false desk statement: former EPA head Lisa Jackson, who now works as Apple’s top environmental advisor. Jackson was recently replaced by just-confirmed EPA head Gina McCarthy.

This was revealed by the other whistleblower, who as part of the regular duties of his job, was a member of the “HQ-Dimock” email listserv. On that list, Jackson went by the pseudonym “Richard Windsor” as a way to shield her real name from potential Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Many members of the email group…were lawyers and members of Lisa Jackson’s inner political circle,” explained Soraghan.

Key Freedom of Information Act Filed

American Tradition Institute has filed two FOIA’s in response to the whistleblowers coming forward.

“One FOIA request seeks certain e-mails, text messages, or instant messages of three specified EPA field staff which are to, from or make reference to the White House or EPA HQ,” explained ATI. “The second FOIA request focuses on emails sent as part of the ‘HQ-Dimock’ discussion group. Both requests cover the seven-month period from December 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.”

Natural Resources Defense Council – which has also been critical of the EPA on this issue – is suspicious of ATI’s motives in this case.

ATI is more well-known for denying climate change’s existence and “ClimateGate” in particular. Yet, when push comes to shove, NRDC’s Kate Sinding approves of ATI’s FOIA filing and looks forward to what it discovers.

“It appears to be an attempt to bully EPA out of these cases,” Sinding toldEnergyWire. “If their request results in getting more information about the decisionmaking, that’s good information for everyone. But I question their motivation.”

“Hide It, Drop It, Forget About It”

The real question at the heart of the matter: What were the EPA’s motives for doing an about-face on a key multi-year tax-payer subsidized study?

“It is unconscionable that, in the name of political expediency, the Obama Administration suppressed key information that would have connected the dots between fracking and water contamination,” Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch told DeSmogBlog. “Gina McCarthy must put the health and safety of Americans first and prevent the agency from succumbing to political pressure.”

Scott Ely – a former Cabot employee and Dimock resident who has three small children and whose water was contaminated by Cabot – expressed similar despair over EPA abandoning ship in this high-profile study.

“When does anybody just stand by the truth? Why is it that we have a bunch of people in Washington, DC who are trying to manipulate the truth of what’s happening to people in Dimock because of the industry?,” Ely asked rhetorically.

Ely says he keeps an open line of communications with EPA employees, who regularly check in and caution him not to use his water. The employees remain unidentified for fear of retribution by EPA upper-level management.

“We thought EPA was going to come in and be our savior. And what’d they do? They said the truth can’t be known: hide it, drop it, forget about it.”

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece originally appeared.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail