Two studies raise doubt in links between fracking and groundwater contamination

Two studies concluding that hydraulic fracturing is not linked to groundwater contamination were released on Monday, September 22, 2014. The results of these studies could impact lawsuits claiming fracking caused groundwater contamination and shift the emphasis of regulators to the impact of faulty fracked wells themselves.

The United States Department of Energy released a study of fracking in the Marcellus Shale in western Pennsylvania which found no evidence that fracking fluid from the fracking operation contaminated groundwater. In the second study, researchers from Ohio State University, Duke University and the University of Rochester released the results of a study concluding that fracking in the Marcellus Shale and the Barnett Shale in Texas is not contaminating groundwater. However, the university study showed that wells that are improperly drilled may allow shale gas to leak into groundwater.

While the government study examined whether fracking fluids left behind after drilling could contaminate groundwater, the university study analyzed whether fracking fluids could migrate to groundwater during the drilling process. Ultimately, both studies reached the same conclusion. Though the university researchers expressed some concern that fracking operations could open pathways for water contamination from deep shale layers into shallow aquifers, the two studies are likely to provide support for regulators and oil companies who have argued that groundwater is not at risk from fracking operations.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) and Kathleen McNearney ( or 713 651 3662)