New Study Confirms Fracking Has Not Contaminated Groundwater in Texas

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) released a new study today that provides further confirmation that fracking is not contaminating groundwater in Texas.

The TAMEST study notes that “direct migration of contaminants from targeted injection zones is highly unlikely to lead to contamination of potential drinking water aquifers,” citing a 2011 study from the Ground Water Protection Council that analyzed 211 cases of groundwater contaminations that had been associated with oil and natural gas activity in Texas. That study found that of the 211, only 10 incidents could be associated with well drilling and completions, and none of the incidents were from fracking.

The TAMEST report also concludes that direct fracturing into drinking water zones “has not been observed in Texas.”

This study is the latest in a long list of studies and reports showing that fracking is not a major threat to drinking water sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) five year study of fracking last year – considered the most comprehensive report on the subject – showed no evidence of widespread contamination.

In fact, just this year studies from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), University of Texas, and even Duke University (funded by the anti-fracking National Resources Defense Council) reached similar conclusions.

The TAMEST report also examined a broad range of issues and concerns related to shale development - from water quantity to air emissions, and even economic impacts.  While the study did identify certain areas of concern – most of which are addressed by existing state and federal regulations – the report as a whole was positive and provides a bigger picture of the impacts from Texas’ oil and gas industry.

Here are some of those additional findings:

  • Air emissions – “In the Texas grid, the substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity generation results in reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and criteria air pollutants including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Reductions in downstream emissions are, in the case of CO2, sulfur dioxide, and NOx, greater than the increases in emissions due to production.” (page 92)

  • Water quantity – “The average annual water use for hydraulic fracturing activities in 2011 and 2012 in Texas was about 20 billion gallons of waters (EPA, 2016). Because this volume represents on 0.2 percent of total water use in the state, and 0.7 percent of total state consumptive use, it might be considered small.” (page 115)

  • Earthquakes – The majority of Texas’ earthquakes are due to natural stresses, and have not been associated with hydraulic fracturing. In addition:

“Government, industry, and academic representatives from Texas have all been active participants in these studies, putting Texas on the forefront of exploring, assessing, and mitigating the relationships between induced seismicity and oil and gas operations.” (page 50)

  • Economic impacts – “The oil and gas industry in Texas accounts for an annual gross product of $473 billion as well as nearly 3.8 million jobs…In 2014 alone, production in the Permian, Eagle Ford, and Haynesville shale play areas accounted for more than $27 billion in royalty payments to private landowners, or more than two-thirds of the royalties from America’s leading shale oil and gas plays.” (page 30)

  • Land impacts – “Horizontal wells have a smaller impact than the equivalent number of vertical wells would have had. When operators use a single well pad for multiple wells, surface impacts are significantly reduced.” (page 78) 

 

See a fact sheet about the TAMEST study by clicking here.

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