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Recent Report Adds Fuel to Fracking Debate

This image produced by the Departme nt of Energy explains the hydraulic fracturing process.
Image courtesy
This image produced by the Departme nt of Energy explains the hydraulic fracturing process.

A newly-released report on fracking – the practice of pumping hydraulic fracturing fluid into wells to break up and extract oil shale and natural gas deposits – has caused something of a stir in Texas.

The report from the University of Texas Energy Institute, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” stated that fracking, when executed properly, doesn’t contaminate groundwater. However, accidents related to fracking may. As we wrote last week, “The report’s authors say contamination is often the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wastewater, but not caused directly by fracking.”

In a press release accompanying the report, Charles “Chip” Groat, who directed the project for the Energy Institute said “These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing.”

That view has received scrutiny from environmentalists concerned it understates the potential impact of fracking. KUT’s Mose Buchele recently spoke with Scott Anderson, policy advisor for the Environmental Defense Fund, who said “The report shines a light on the fact that there are a number of aspects of natural gas development that can cause significant environmental risk.” Buchele, reporting for StateImpact Texas, continues:

Late last year the EPA released a draft report on the effects of fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming that appeared to find a link between fracking and water contamination. The UT study found no such link, saying that poorly-constructed wells pose a danger to the environment. Those construction problems could happen in wells that aren’t fracked, and that’s a distinction that researchers like Anderson find important. “It’s really important if we want to figure out what the real problems are and the real solutions are to use the terms correctly,” Anderson said.

Fracking continues to be a closely watched issue, both nationally and in Texas. This month, rules went into effect requiring disclosure of the fracking fluids being used in Texas, which you can search online

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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