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Washington Beat: House Subcommittee Meets On Fracking

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The issue of hydrofracking took center stage on a national level Wednesday, as a House subcommittee hearing was held to address EPA findings on the controversial gas drilling method. Washington D.C. bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The drilling industry has been fracking for oil for more 60 years, but the debate over its risks is relatively new. So new, that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t say for sure if the concerns are warranted.

"I understand the questions you're asking, and I would have to respond that we don't have the information to make that assessment," said Dr. Fred Hauchman of the Environmental Protection Agency said in response to a question Wednesday at a House subcommittee hearing. "I certainly don't have that information."

The senior EPA officials testified before the House subcommittee, explaining and, at times, defending their investigation into the relationship between fracking and groundwater pollution.

Fracking is the process by which drillers pump huge amounts of water and chemicals thousands of feet into the ground. The pressure causes rock formations to fracture, allowing gas and oil to flow freely. Environmentalists say the process poses a threat to groundwater.

The EPA said as much in 2011, blaming fracking for polluting a Wyoming aquifer. The agency later backed away from that position and the underlying study, drawing criticism from environmentalists and the energy industry.

On Wednesday, when Hauchman was asked if he knew of any specific instances of fracking related groundwater pollution, he responded, "At this particular time, no," leaving more questions than answers in the debate over fracking.

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