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How is Groundwater Protected During Hydraulic Fracturing?

In every oil and natural gas well that’s fracked, multiple layers (and millions of pounds) of steel pipe casing and concrete isolate the well bore from groundwater supplies. In most cases, the horizontal section of the well can be a mile or more below the groundwater layer. These construction methods, strict federal and state regulations and comprehensive industry standards help ensure safe and responsible energy development. An Energy Department report concluded: “Ground water is protected during the shale gas fracturing process by a combination of the casing and cement that is installed when the well is drilled and the thousands of feet of rock between the fracture zone and any fresh or treatable aquifers.”

Federal and state regulators alike underscore hydraulic fracturing’s safety. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy recently said that “there’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can’t accomplish.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.” When she headed up EPA, Lisa Jackson said: “I’m not aware of any proven cases where the fracking process itself has contaminated groundwater.”

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