Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Language in controversial EPA study on fracking was tempered after White House meeting

Language in a controversial 2015 Environmental Protection Agency study on horizontal hydraulic fracturing was added after a meeting with White House officials, Marketplace and American Public Media say in a jointly reported story by Scott Tong and Tom Scheck.

The executive summary of the EPA study said that while fracking has the potential to harm drinking water, researchers found no evidence of "widespread, systemic impacts" to drinking water supplies. An EPA panel in August said the report, which they called inconsistent, should be revised.

The story says the phrase "widespread, systemic" was added after the White House meeting. Originally, the summary and press release originally "made a bland but contrary point — that scientists had found 'potential vulnerabilities'," notes Mike Soraghan of Energy Wire.

"Earlier draft versions emphasized more directly that fracking has contaminated drinking water in some places," the story says. "In a conference call with reporters about the study on the day it was released, the EPA’s deputy administrator, Tom Burke, highlighted the lack of widespread, systemic impacts as the agency’s top finding. In fact, scientists had found evidence in some places that fracking activity had polluted drinking water supplies," in "more than two dozen instances."

Tong and Scheck write, "It’s not clear precisely who inserted or ordered the new phrasing. But emails acquired via the Freedom of Information Act show EPA officials, including press officers, met with key advisers to President Obama to discuss marketing strategy a month before the study’s release. The emails also show EPA public relations people exchanging a flurry of messages between 4 and 11 p.m. on the eve of the study’s release."

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