EPA and Politics Mixes Like Oil and Water

The US government has long turned to the EPA for environmental reporting on an array of issues.  How the government uses and interprets the EPA’s findings has come under question. The New York Times recently ran an article, Politics Seen to Limit E.P.A. in Regulation of Natural Gas, discusses the use of the EPA reports and how several of them have possibly been “watered” down to fit the needs of oil and gas companies that have heavily lobbied the government.

There have been several occasions where the EPA has released reports that are “narrow in scope” to avoid over regulation of certain aspects of the oil and gas industry. In a study done in New York that discussed hydrofracking, the EPA was going to call for moratorium on the technique, but omitted it from the final draft that was sent out.

Asked why the letter about hydrofracking in the New York City watershed had been revised, an agency scientist who was involved in writing it offered a one-word explanation: “politics.”

Many critics of the EPA have come out and said that all facts need to be disclosed for the safety of the public. But who is really controlling the EPA’s results? In a report in 2004 concerning hydrofracking in relation to the Safe Drinking Water Act, the early drafts contained information about aquifers possibly being contaminated due to fracking. However, in later versions those discussions were left out.

“It was shameful,” Weston Wilson, the E.P.A. whistleblower, said in a recent interview about the study. He explained that five of the seven members of that study’s peer review panel were current or former employees of the oil and gas industry.

“The study ended up being the basis for this industry getting yet another exemption from federal law when it should have resulted in greater regulation of this industry,” Mr. Wilson added.

So are the EPA reports being narrowed for public safety or for the gain of large gas and oil companies?

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About Stevie Moe

Program Assistant for Plains Justice
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