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October 16, 2013

Fracking: The Other EPA Shutdown

Positive news stories during the shutdown of government services were scarce, so it was nice to read this one about furloughed scientists from the Water Protection Division of the EPA in Atlanta deciding to volunteer some of their (unexpectedly) free time cleaning up a local creek. "All of us really believe that our life's work is to protect and restore rivers and streams for people and animals that rely on them -- paid or not," said EPA biologist Lisa Gordon.

Sometimes we overlook that the EPA (and the rest of our government, for that matter) is made up of people who take pride in serving their community and doing a good job. And as I've written before, we need the EPA to have our back when it comes to protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe. If they don’t, we're in big trouble.

Unfortunately, when it comes to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the EPA has let down its guard. Go to the EPA's webpage on fracking, and the first sentence sounds like it came from a fossil fuel PR flak: "Natural gas plays a key role in our Nation's clean energy future."

Even if you defined "key role" as a dirty and dangerous drilling boom with lax and inconsistent regulation as the result of loopholes in seven major federal laws and regulatory programs, that sentence would still be only half-true. That's because natural gas is unequivocally not part of any clean energy future. As long as we're still drilling and burning gas, we still have at least one foot stuck in the dirty-fuel past.

Far worse than Orwellian website rhetoric about the future, though, is the EPA's failure to respond to on-the-ground harm that fracking is causing to communities right now. Over the past year, the agency has shut down its own fracking-related water contamination investigations in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyoming. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, in at least one case (Dimock, PA), this happened in spite of evidence from the EPA's water tests that the drinking water was polluted with fracking chemicals.

Next week, I'll join thousands of young activists who care about a real clean energy future at Power Shift in Pittsburgh, PA. One thing we'll be doing is challenging EPA Director Gina McCarthy to reopen the investigations into fracking contamination of local water supplies in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming. You can add your voice to our message here.

The problems with fracking aren't limited to just a few states, though -- they extend across the U.S. and around the world. If you care about the drinking water where you live, you owe it to yourself to join Global Frackdown, which is this Saturday, October 19. The EPA may have taken its eye off the ball, but many good people around the world are refusing to stand by while the oil and gas industries recklessly threaten our drinking water. Global Frackdown Day is a good opportunity to find out who's fighting that good fight in your own community and learn more about what's at stake. 

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