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Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination

Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination thumbnail

Put this one in the awkward file: just hours after the EPA released yet another massive study (literally, at just under 1000 pages) which found no evidence that fracking led to widespread pollution of drinking water (an outcome welcome by the oil industry and its backers and criticized by environmental groups), the director of the California Department of Conservation,  which oversees the agency that regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, resigned as the culmination of a scandal over the contamination of California’s water supply by fracking wastewater dumping.

An aerial view of pits containing production water from oil wells near California 33 and Lokern Road in Kern County

This is what the allegedly impartial EPA said on Thursday when it released its long awaited study: we did not find evidence that [hydraulic fracking has] led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

Tom Burke, science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, told NPR that “we found the hydraulic fracturing activities in the United States are carried out in a way that has not led to widespread systemic impacts on drinking water resources. In fact, the number of documented impacts to drinking water resources is relatively low when compared to the number of fractured wells.”

In retrospect the EPA surely wishes it had picked a slightly different time and date to release its “imparial” results because less than 24 hours later on Friday afternoon, Mark Nechodom, director of the California Department of Conservation who was appointed by governor Jerry Brown three years ago, abruptly resigned following an outcry over oil companies injecting their wastewater into Central Valley aquifers that were supposed to be protected by law.

As LA Times reports, Nechodom “was named this week in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Kern County farmers who allege that Brown, the oil and gas division and others conspired with oil companies to allow the illegal injections and to create a more lax regulatory environment for energy firms.”

The lawsuit was filed under federal racketeering statutes and claims the conspiracy deprived Kern County farmers of access to clean water.

According to SF Gate, Nechodom announced his resignation in a brief letter to John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. The Conservation Department is part of the resources agency. “I have appreciated being part of this team and helping to guide it through a difficult time,” Nechodom wrote

Ironically, California’s oil regulator, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, has been facing scrutiny from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after allowing oil producers to drill thousands of oilfield wastewater disposal wells into federally protected aquifers.

It was not immediately clear if the oil companies which commissioned the EPA study “clearing” fracking are also charged in the wastewater dumping case but the answer is “probably.”

Attorney Rex Parris, whose firm filed the lawsuit, said in a written statement Friday that the case alleges a broad and complex conspiracy involving other officials.“We are not surprised that Nechodom resigned a day after the filing of this lawsuit,” Parris said. “We are confident he is just one of many resignations to come.”

In one tense hearing before lawmakers in March, Nechodom received a barrage of criticism from elected officials who recited one oversight failure after another. Nechodom sat stone-faced during the hearing, but eventually agreed, saying, “We all fell down.”

It gets better:

Nechodom’s resignation was unexpected, although he had increasingly been called upon by state officials to explain problems in the oil and gas division’s oversight of the oil industry and a parade of embarrassing blunders.


The Department of Conservation failed to meet an April 30 deadline for making public a broad range of information regarding the source, volume and disposal of water used in oil and gas production.

The punchline: “Nechodom blamed the reporting failure on “unforeseeable personnel and technical challenges.” Well at least he did not blame an “internal procedural error“, the passive voice excuse used by the ECB when it was revealed it had leaked critical details of its monetary policy to a select group of hedge funds.

So how does one reconcile the seeming contradiction between Nechodom’s fall from grace and the fact that quite clearly, fracking has had a drastic impact on the quality of drinking water in California, with the EPA’s finding which bombastically states the following:

This state-of-the-science assessment contributes to the understanding of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources and the factors that may influence those impacts. The findings in this assessment can be used by federal, state, tribal, and local officials; industry; and the public to better understand and address any vulnerabilities of drinking water resources to hydraulic fracturing activities.

In other words, use the “state-of-the-science” findings” to demolish all allegations that the oil industry may not have the public interest in mind… just ignore the farce that took place one day later with the director California Department of Conservation.

But how is this possible? For the answer we go to a recent letter by the editor in chief of The Lancet, one of the world’s best known medical journals, who without fear proclaims what many have known intuitively most of their adult lives, namely that half of all “scientific literature” is false. To wit:

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

In other words, half of what you read anywhere, especially in “scientific” literature, is a lie.

Which brings us to the last line of the EPA executive summary: “This assessment can also be used to help facilitate and inform dialogue among interested stakeholders, and support future efforts, including: providing context to site-specific exposure or risk assessments, local and regional public health assessments, and assessments of cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources over time or over defined geographic areas of interest. Finally, and most importantly, this assessment advances the scientific basis for decisions by federal, state, tribal, and local officials, industry, and the public, on how best to protect drinking water resources now and in the future.”

Great job. The only thing left missing is the disclosure of how many billions in “donations” and “lobby spending” it took the oil industry for the EPA to goalseek the findings of this “impartial, scientific” organization.


40 Comments on "Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination"

  1. Rodster on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 5:48 pm 

    Yeah, saw this on ZH today. I’m not buying into the fracking does not pollute the ground water BS by these companies. There’s way too much evidence in just available photos alone that shows the mess/destruction they leave behind when moving on to a new location. IIRC I read somewhere that these fracking companies have the State Gov’t sign a contract waver wrt any environmental pollution they create. So it’s the taxpayer who foots the bill for any problems and cleanup.

  2. harm on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 6:03 pm 

    Cue up Planter, Nony and other apologists for the oil &gas industry. Please explain how this is all tree-hugger socialist propaganda, and how these .01%ers care deeply about the long-term environmental damage they are doing and its effect on working class Americans.

  3. harm on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 6:11 pm 

    As Josh Fox pointed out in Gasland II, the oil & gas industry is well aware that 5% of all gas well casings fail immediately, and 50%+ eventually fail over that well’s lifetime. They just choose not to advertise that fact.

    Which means we can expect vast amounts of groundwater contamination in the U.S. to last for… who knows how long?

  4. GregT on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 6:16 pm 

    ” who knows how long?”

    The way we’re headed?
    It could last for longer than our species does.

  5. harm on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 6:16 pm 

    Links to oil industry data on failed well casings on this page:

  6. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 7:14 pm 

    Good eye Harm. The corporate MSM BAU cheerleaders are guilty as well. Pretty much owned by the same 1% ers so no surprise there.

    UPDATED: Newsweek, Wash. Times Publish False Headlines About EPA Fracking Study

  7. harm on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 8:44 pm 

    Thanks, Apneaman. Unfortunately, the incentives to brush the environmental costs of fracking under the rug are very strong with both political parties right now. Obama and Democrats are a lot more concerned with job reports and keeping oil & gas production at record highs than worrying about people getting sick off well water. Most of the corporate media just tows the line as usual.

    Just more evidence we’re witnessing the end game of late stage capitalism –the increasingly desperate extremes we’ll go to just to maintain the status quo. Diminishing returns on technological complexity is here.

  8. Rodster on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 8:57 pm 

    “Just more evidence we’re witnessing the end game of late stage capitalism”

    Capitalism left the building a long, long time ago. Our economy is no longer Capitalism but “BANK-ISM”. The Central Banks around the World are running their respective economies. That’s much worse than Capitalism because now it’s really all for Bank profits and to hell with everything else including humans and the planet.

  9. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 8:59 pm 

    It appears it is more than just the water that is being directly polluted. The human externalities continue.

    Study cites lower birth weights near fracking
    Pitt health study finds correlation

    “Emissions from drilling and fracking operations emit a variety of air pollutants, according to prior studies cited by Mr. Burke, including benzene, a carcinogen, volatile organic compounds or VOCs, metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known as PAHs.”

  10. Makati1 on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 9:19 pm 

    “Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination”


  11. coffeeguyzz on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:04 pm 

    … and thus the frantic push back kicks in to try and defuse the impact from the EPA’s comprehensive study.

    Do any of you readers (excluding the esteemed Rockman, et al) know the difference between produced water and ‘frac water’ … never mind flowback?
    (Hint, the above pictures are from Kern county’s containment ponds … the distinction of color left to right tells a revealing tale for anyone interested in factual, oil related processes).

    Knowledge of the ‘new’ owners of Zerohedge may provide an enlightening perspective on that site’s fierce anti-shale stance – as well as their politically tinged outlook – these past few years.

    Mr. Apneaman … you applaud Mr. Harm’s links. Did you read the SPE report on well casings and Archerwell’s ‘advertisement’ on well integrity. (Archer well is in the business of making and installing well monitor equipment … a crucial role, certainly, but the ‘sales spin ‘ via terminology puts a great deal of their displayed info in a clearer context. Of course, one would need to understand what annular pressure is to grasp a broader view.

    Finally, guys, quick quiz for one and all … how were the California aquifers contaminated with ‘fracwater’? As per a few months ago, only four tested wells showed any elevated contaminant content … and the Dept of Conservation spokesman said it could be from natural background sources. Any fellow truthseekers out there able to confirm/refute the source?
    You all would be surprised at the amount of water annually used for maintenance fracs in California going back decades. The few dozen laterals in the Monterey were frac’d with ACID!!!)

    The tide may or may not start shifting against the hysterical, anti-industrial movement that has found its focus on the decades’ long, mundane process of frac’ing, but the concerted, widespread attack on the EPA’s report may indicate the irrationality is in its final death throes.

  12. Plantagenet on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:08 pm 

    Rodster is confused. It isn’t the oil industry that is in the news for saying fracking is safe and doesn’t contaminate the water.

    Its Obama’s EPA that is in the news for saying fracking is safe and doesn’t contaminate the water.

    Get it now?

  13. GregT on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:16 pm 

    Here we go again.

    The idiocy continues…….

  14. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:23 pm 

    Plant, what year and under who’s administration was the EPA bureaucracy, that like all bureaucracies is there regardless of who comes and goes in the white house, created?

  15. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:26 pm 

    Christ are you ever a fucking idiot, Plant….Dumber than a fence post.

  16. Plantagenet on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:29 pm 

    Apneman, —glad to help you out—-the EPA was created in 1970 by President Nixon.

    Now will you please answer a question for me?

    In what year and under who’s administration was the current EPA administrator appointed? And how about all her deputies—-what year and what administration?

    Psssst—The administrators—you know, the people who hire and fire and promote and set the agenda and have to review and approve and SIGN EVERY REPORT before the EPA will release it— come and go at pleasure of the President, donate know?

  17. Plantagenet on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:32 pm 

    So you can’t answer a simple question? Jesse you are a dope.

    Or, to quote you, Apnea man, are you ever an overweight dumb fucking idiot….Dumber than a bird poop


  18. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:34 pm 

    How quick they forget how many American cities and landscapes up to the formation of the EPA looked much like China today.
    Going retro for a few dollars more.

    DOCUMERICA: Images of America in Crisis in the 1970s

  19. GregT on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:36 pm 

    Wash your potty mouth planter.


  20. Plantagenet on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:36 pm 

    Still can’t answer a simple question, Apnewman?

    Whats the problem? Are you too Dumb dumb dumb dumb to know who appoint the head of EPA and the other top political appointees there?

    Think about it a while.

    Maybe you’ll Figure it out. Eventually.


  21. Apneaman on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:37 pm 

    Stupid people cannot recognize old propaganda tricks even when they have been around since the invention of newspapers.

  22. Plantagenet on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:37 pm 


    I was just quoting Apneaman.

    Of course you are too dumb to have noticed that.


  23. GregT on Sat, 6th Jun 2015 11:40 pm 

    Answer these questions planter.

    In what year and under who’s administration was the current president installed?

    Who writes foreign policy?

    Who controls the US government?

  24. GregT on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 12:04 am 

    I was just quoting Apneaman.
    Of course you are too dumb to have noticed that.

    What Apnea said planter:

    “Christ are you ever a fucking idiot, Plant….Dumber than a fence post.”

    What you said:

    “Apnea man, are you ever an overweight dumb fucking idiot….Dumber than a bird poop”

    Can you see the difference planter? Or are you too dumb to figure it out?



  25. Apneaman on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 12:30 am 

    No where in a political appointee’s job description does it say they get to make up new rules on the fly and regulator corruption has been the norm for decades now regardless of who is in office. Revolving door. The early report and misrepresentation of it – with retractions, fake apologies and the sacrificial lamb – are old school propaganda tricks. Same as the WMD meme. Get a lie out first before the truth and the useful idiots will cling to it for life like it’s gospel no matter what evidence of malfeasance comes after. The right wing faithful will take it to the grave like millions who believe Iraq had WMD and climate change is a hoax and Regan single handily defeated Communism. They did the same thing to Al Gore (who I am no fan of) with misquoting him as saying he invented the internet, then retracting it and a fake apology. Too late, damage done as planned. You don’t know the score plant, cause you don’t know how the game is really played by both sides. Your too locked up in your left-right religion/ideology. You’re who they are playing. Pay attention to what happens to the people who get sacrificed (wink wink) and see where they end up down the road a piece. Chances are it will be some cushy industry job. Same as it ever was.

  26. Dredd on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 9:00 am 

    Day After EPA Finds Fracking Does Not Pollute Water, Top Oil Regulator Resigns Over Water Contamination

    Which supports the opposite interpretation of the EPA thingy (Fracking Has Contaminated Drinking Water, EPA Now Concludes).

    It is a mater of who is telling the least-sized whopper a la Clapper, the littlest liar.

  27. Dredd on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 9:02 am 

    “Sue the bastids !!”

  28. Dredd on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 11:11 am 

    The first line of the complaint suing the bastards reads:

    Every month, Occidental and Chevron directly pump 2.63 times more toxic waste water into the San Joaquin Aquifer than oil released into the Gulf during the entire BP spill. The California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) plans to allow them to continue for another 21 months. This lawsuit brought to stop the poisoning of the San Joaquin aquifer and to remediate the damage already done to the farmland of Kern County.”

    (What Next, Mass Depraved-Heart Murder?).

  29. rockman on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 5:07 pm 

    Didn’t read all the comments so this point may have been made: the EPA report covers the frac’ng process only…not the disposal of produced TOXIC oil field waste. Two completely different issues. For instance from what I read the vast majority of CA oil field waste is from wells that have never been frac’d. In fact most of oil field waste fluids in the US come from wells never frac’d. Just my WAG but I would guess 98%+. The most common being brine.

    For several years the Rockman has pointed out that the focus was very misplaced: don’t keep an eye on the frac trucks…keep a very close eye on those harmless look tank trucks going down the road at 2 AM, That’s shere the real danger lies.

  30. rockman on Sun, 7th Jun 2015 7:05 pm 

    BTW the vast majority of PROVEN frac fluid contamination in PA has been by the disposal operations paid well by the drilling companies to properly dispose of the crap. And some of the biggest early offenders where the municipal waste disposal facilities in a number of PA cities. Initially they were exempt from the regs the oil patch had to follow. Both PA and NY had to pass laws making in illegal for city operations to dump the crap untreated into the streams.

  31. Apneaman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 12:18 am 

    The EPA’s Fracking Study, Explained

  32. Apneaman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 12:19 am 

    EPA’s Fracking Study Has Industry’s Oily Fingerprints All Over It

  33. Apneaman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 1:50 am 

    Three more tendons sink at Chevron’s Big Foot site in U.S. Gulf

  34. rockman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 4:26 am 

    Also that 5% casing failure for the industry seems a tad high. The Rockman’s experience after 40 years s closer to 1% or less. Probably the Rockman is just better at his job. LOL

    But 1%, %5 or 20% that’s not the critical metric. “Casing failure” doesn’t necessarily mean pollution. In the half dozen casing failures the Rockman has experienced over 4 decades none have led to surface or aquifer contamination. Typically they occur much too deep to be a problem up shallow, Down there we’re dealing with 12.000+ psi rock pressure compare to 300 psi in the shallow. Typically cement failures are much more common. Rockman has experienced hundreds of such events. But none of them resulted in any shallow contamination. And they are readily fixed.

    Of course the EPA study should be covered in oil path finger prints: where do you think all the data came from? LOL.

    But there have been some documented cases of casing or cement failure leading to shallow pollution. Nothing is risk free: planes crash and school buses kill children. Sh*t happens but we accept it when the benefits are there.

  35. rockman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 7:59 am 

    Thanks AP… not heard about this:
    “Chevron’s Big Foot site in U.S. Gulf”. This is unbelievable engineering screw up. Heads will roll for sure. And maybe huge multi $million lawsuits depending on who made the mistakes. This is equivalent to launching a boat and watching it immediately sink. But no risk of pollution since it was just a pre-production installation.

  36. Dredd on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 9:35 am 

    It is in the federal courts now.

    The reason the guy resigned is that they forced out those who did not want to criminally infect toxins into drinking water:

    Defendants Brown [Gov. of California], Nechodom, Kustic, Oviatt, DOGGR, WSPA, CIPA, OCCIDENTAL OIL AND GAS CORPORATION, CHEVRON U.S.A. INC., and others known and unknown, being persons employed by and associated with the Enterprise did unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally conduct and participate, directly and directly in the conduct, management, and operation of the affairs of the Enterprise, which was engaged in and affected interstate and foreign commerce through racketeering activity that included numerous acts indictable under 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 (intimidation of any person engaged in free exercise of speech or any Constitutional right); 1341 (mail fraud) , 1343 (wire fraud), 1346.43 (honest services), 1512 (b) (intimidating and threatening witnesses), and 1513(b) (intimidating and threatening witnesses).

    (On The Origin of “Conspiracy Theory” – 6).

    The complaint alleges conspiracy between Oil-Qaeda and government officials.

  37. rockman on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 2:16 pm 

    I can’t help but chuckle that they are suing Mr. Moonbeam…the first big time pro-environment politician in the eyes of many.

  38. Dredd on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 4:43 pm 


    Power corrupts.

  39. Hubbert on Mon, 8th Jun 2015 7:24 pm 

    At least some lawyers are good for something. They need to sue these creeps out of business.

  40. rockman on Tue, 9th Jun 2015 7:30 am 

    Dredd – Or maybe the simplistic attitudes about energy, economy and the environment turn to sh*t when one becomes responsible for the outcomes. Being in charge of the ENTIRE dynamics is much more complex then focusing on just a single aspect.

    Always easy to take shots from the cheap seats. LOL

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