That wasn't the only time the agency backed away from a fracking investigation. "Over the past 15 months the EPA closed an investigation into groundwater pollution in Dimock, Pa., saying the level of contamination was below federal safety triggers and abandoned its claim that a driller in Parker County, Texas, was responsible for methane gas bubbling up in residents’ faucets, even though a geologist hired by the agency confirmed this finding," Lustgarten reports. They also "sharply revised downward a 2010 estimate showing that leaking gas from wells and pipelines was contributing to climate change, crediting better pollution controls by the drilling industry even as other reports indicate the leaks may be larger than previously thought, and failed to enforce a statutory ban on using diesel fuel in fracking."
Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, told Lustgarten, “We’re seeing a pattern that is of great concern. They need to make sure that scientific investigations are thorough enough to ensure that the public is getting a full scientific explanation.”
Publicly, the EPA says the events are not related, Lustgarten reports, "but in private conversations, however, high-ranking agency officials acknowledge that fierce pressure from the drilling industry and its powerful allies on Capitol Hill – as well as financial constraints and a delicate policy balance sought by the White House – is squelching their ability to scrutinize not only the effects of oil and gas drilling, but other environmental protections as well." He notes that last year, the EPA's budget was cut 17 percent, to below 1998 levels, and sequestration has forced further cuts. (Read more)