Environmental Protection Agency officials made critical last-minute changes to their presentation of a multiyear report on hydraulic fracturing, which served to downplay the oil and gas drilling method's threat to drinking water supplies, an investigation by APM Reports and Marketplace found.
Some of the agency's own scientists criticized the changes and rebuked the key conclusion, APM and Marketplace reported.
Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — is one of two technologies that has underpinned a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production. Frackers inject a mix of water, minerals and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release oil and gas. The practice is widely opposed by environmentalists.
The EPA's final press release and executive summary of the five-year study emphasized a key phrase: "hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources." Energy industry groups and media organizations, including CNBC.com, have widely cited the finding in discussions of fracking's safety.
The phrase was added to a draft press release in May prior to its public release in June, the investigation found.