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

Tyler Durden's picture

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.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Luckhasit's picture

Everything in this country is for sale, even science. 

That is capitalism without checks and balances.

wendigo's picture
wendigo (not verified) Luckhasit Jun 6, 2015 5:22 PM

A large chunk of science is paid for by the feds. Wonder what they're buying? 

green sheen's picture

It's those GD rice eaters doing all the fracking

James_Cole's picture

There was a lot of 'science' written about cigarette smoke not being harmful, why? 'Cause of the money. You don't see this same phenomenon of junk proofs play out in math (closest probably being poincare conjecture debacle) because the incentives aren't there.  

Slave's picture

After Chosens are done buying the shale oil industry, oil prices will skyrocket once again.

dexter_morgan's picture

fear. Fear makes people malleable. Read the report from iron mountain - they pretty much are following that game-plan.

dexter_morgan's picture

No, that's government without checks and balances - they fund the studies.

falconflight's picture

Capitalism?  You mental midget, like so many KremlinHasbaras @ZH.  Adoph and Uncle Joe's scientific community were independent bystanders?  Go choke yourself.  

chunga's picture

The same EPA banned Primatene Mist because it causes global warming.

Cautionary Tale's picture
Cautionary Tale (not verified) chunga Jun 6, 2015 5:42 PM

GLOBAL WARMING BITCHEZ!!! ~ Be very afraid ~ lol!

Stoploss's picture

The charade is coming apart little by little.

Keynesians say the darndest things's picture

He'll have a cushy new .gov job at the EPA soon enough

Duc888's picture


Have the "Frackers" ever released the ingredients to the solution they pump into the ground?




I didn't think so.

Arnold's picture


Fracturing fluid is mainly Brine and sand, depending on the formation,

Surfactants are added to make it flow better under pressure.

Just because you are an ignorant asshole doesn't give you the right to throw bombs and not expect to be blown up.

What comes back up in development is natural Mother Nature,and generally injected into existing Brine wells, or treated and reused.


WillyGroper's picture

Great resource there sport.

I've never seen a cow drop dead from a salt lick.

Arnold's picture

I recon that, if you two guys make minimum  wage between you, you would be over paid.

My advice is to retire from the field, before you get a splinter.


THE 4th Quadrant's picture

It's the joos methodology. Do whatever you have to decimate the industry. Release whatever studies, make everyone thing they will die from the chemicals, you know, be scarey very scary.

Then buy it all up for pennies. Now be a nice Goy and go take a loan out.

Bangin7GramRocks's picture

I love the word mainly. If I handed you a drink that was mainly water but 1% poison, would you drink it? Of course not! 

palmereldritch's picture

But that's what disinfo consists of and people consume it every day.  With gusto.

Road Hazard's picture

Arnold, fuck off you paid shill. Anyone can edit virtually any wiki page. I could edit the precious fracking page you reference and make it say that fracking fluid is made of shredded unicorn shit. Go spin your bullshit lies on to people as dumb as you. In case you haven't figured it out yet, this site is a cut above the rest of the noise on the internet. The readers here can see through bullshit and see reality for what it is. Tell YOU what SPORT....I'll pay you $100 for every cup of fracking waste water you drink.

Dodgy Geezer's picture

The directors have drunk the fracking fluid:


Now, are you going to eat your words?

Billy Bob101's picture

We don't know who he was, what he drank, or what after effects there might have been.  All we know is what they tell us.  They wouldn't lie, would they?  Every company has a different formula, which is protected from disclosure by "proprietary" rights. 

Arnold's picture

Must be a sex scandal.

Tinky's picture

To anyone who believes that fracking poses little or no threat to nearby aquifers, there are plenty of screaming (property) bargains to be found in such places.

Go ahead – take full advantage!

Oh, and by the way, do any of the researchers responsible for that report live near a fracking operation? That's a rhetorical question.

Jorgen's picture

Present day science is actually a junk science in many cases. Results are closely correlated to who paid for the research, either directly or indirectly. WTC1, WTC2 and finally WTC7 are just three prime examples.

Max Steel's picture

they keyword in epa report was ' widespread ' . Read it on FT . EPA is trying to fool avg americans . 

CPL's picture

It's okay, without water.  They die as well from a system carefully developed on fuel sources dependent on oil and water to remain operational like nuclear power.  In engineering circles that is called N+none with no back up plan.  Just stay out of the way once they understand what they've done to themselves.

Couldn't give away a house there by the end of the summer with the water table destroyed.

Max Steel's picture

Exactly, it is local and consistent. By the poisoning of the fracking water itself, independent of well/aquifer contamination the contamination is widespread. This is a FRAUD, plain and simple. One million plus gallons a well poisoned, is "widespread," before collateral and residual contamination.

unionbroker's picture

Ingredients are the same as they use to make krocadile

CPL's picture

“unforeseeable personnel and technical challenges."

They are dying like flies on the rigs, the water is poisoning them regardless of their "enhanced hardiness" and with no energy.  They've been glossing over the losses for a while on what amounts to slow suicide for a couple of years of power to turn a profit they'll never be able to spend. 

Additionally with the lack of clean water this in turn leads to the complete closure of silicon valley, the collapse of the agricultural industry and the pharmaceutical industry of the western world.  Entropy set in as soon as the decision to frak for oil was made.  It's not only the agricultural and technology sector of California that depends on those rivers for the water incidentally.  The nuclear plants require X amount of water to function properly or they melt down and go BOOM!  Unfortunately it is a situation no one planned for.  Good luck California.

cossack55's picture

I fuckin' love entropy.  It is my last hope for justice. Sure wished it would move a little quicker. 

WillyGroper's picture

His head needs to be on a pike hanging from the Golden Gate Bridge.

In other news...State Senator (minister with a gambling addiction), charged w/$1mm embezzelment from BBB.

This guy wears pink shoe laces with orange tennis shoes.


vic and blood's picture

Is the author or someone else able to document the following statement?

"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."

Around these parts, wastewater appears to go into lined evaporative ponds, whether oilfield, mining, or fertilizer production. Drilling wells isn't cheap. I can't imagine an operator deliberately drilling down into an aquifer to dispose of waste water.

Village-idiot's picture

I don't know about California but here in Alberta produced water is pumped down old oil wells that are now empty.

In other words putting it right back where it came from minus the oil.

TwoHoot's picture

Production waste water disposal and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") are two completely unrelated subjects.

The only way they could possibly be intermingled in the same article is a deliberate attmpt to mis-inform and confuse the reader.

vic and blood's picture

Thank you for clarifying that in a succinct way. I failed to do so.

Is it true that an important ingredient in frack water is a harmless botanical product imported from India?

TwoHoot's picture

"Is it true that an important ingredient in frack water is a harmless botanical product imported from India?"

It has been over twenty years since I was in and around the oil business daily. But .. fracking is not a new well completion procedure. The basic procedure and purpose remain the same as they were in the 60s. In general terms, completing a well that has been drilled into an oil or gas producing formation involves:

1) "Casing" the well with heavy, large diameter steel pipe.

2) "Cemeting" the well by pumping concrete down the casing under pressure so it is forced to the surface outside the casing from the bottom up. This fills all the voids between the casing and the surrounding earth. This prevents oil, water and gas from moving up the outside of the casing to contaminate zones above the producing formation. At this point, the well is just a hole in the ground with a concrete bottom and steel/concrete sides.

3) "Perforating" the casing involves shooting (with explosive charges) small holes in the casing and surrounding concrete in the producing zone. This allows oil, gas, fromation water and whatever else is in the formation to flow into the casing. The producing zone may be narrow (maybe even less than ten feet) or it may be deep with a hundred feet of perforations or more. Only the zones where there is oil and gas are perforated. The remainder of the well is sealed off from the shallower formations, including those that produce potable water.

4) Contrary to popular belief, most oil and gas producing fromations are solid rock. High natural pressure forces oil and gas through the rock and into the casing where it either flows under natural pressure or is pumped to the surface. If the rock is "permiable" it may not be necessary to fracture it. If it is "tight" (which most shale formations are), it may be necessary to break up the oil/gas holding rock to allow fluids to flow into the well bore.

5) "Fracking" the well involves forcing sand into the rock formation under very high pressure to crack up the rock surrounding the well bore where the perforations are. The sand holds the tiny cracks open to allowoil/gas to flow through it. Frac fluid is used to carry the sand. At its simlest, it may just be water with some anti-microbial agent to prevent contaminating the producing formation with surface bacteria. Usually, a surfactant (basically soap) is added to reduce water surface tension and allow it to flow more freely. Guar is sometimes added to carry the sand more efficiently. (This is the harmless botanical product from India you asked about). There may be buffers to control pH or other minor components in the frac fluid. As far as industial liquids go, frack fluid is about as harmless as it gets.

6) "Recovering the frac load" is the next step That involves bailing or pumping all of the frac liquids out of the well. They are disposed of as per pervailing regulation. The goal is to leave sand filled cracks in the producing formation around the perforations and nothing else.

That is probably more than anyone here want to know but it a very brief and incomplete summary of well completion.

Writing anything serious and factual for this audience is about like casting pearls before swine. Let the dingbats ding away.

Village-idiot's picture

Those of us who work in the oil & gas industry understand the difference, but the sensationalistic news media do like to manipulate the sheep.

vic and blood's picture

Looks like we are going to get junked heavily. The same crowd that escews the global warming racket has bought into the similar fracking hysteria. These clowns are drinking doses of Viagra and anti-depressents, along with nitrates, VOCs, and heavy metals every time they take a drink of water. Yet they get shrill from their programming over the practically inert frack water. Same old evil oil man bogeyman. Maybe they are getting too many female hormones in their drinking water.

Joebloinvestor's picture

Apples and oranges.

Fracking wastewater should be fed to DC.

Frack them.

kchrisc's picture

As for "not contaminating":

They lie about everything. Why would they lie about this?

Going further: Picture a movie of the past few years involving so-called traders. Say Margin Call (Great flick).

Now picture those traders frantically calling around looking for buyers of their poison. Now picture the same, but instead of traders, picture pols and crats doing the same thing, but regarding their "ruling." Selling their position to the highest bidder: "Contaminates or doesn't contaminate? I have $600K for contaminates. Do I hear $700 for does not..."

And there you have it, the essence of "regulation."

Liberty is a demand. Tyranny is submission..

p00k1e's picture

If Frack Water is fine, filter, bottle and sell it, make Similac® with the stuff.   No need to put the source on the label.  It’s safe!

847328_3527's picture

" You can drink a liter of Roundup with no problem! "


I wonder how many Fracker CEOs live near the methane-smelling water holes?

vic and blood's picture

     Many are probably gentleman ranchers, as a sideline, and have their own unrelated methane issues. I always figured if there wasn't enough gas to flare off or keep lit with a smudge pot, it probably wasn't a significant amount. I could be wrong.

     In case you are a vegetarian, I won't ask you if cattle production should be curtailed. I recall the poultry farm near Deer Park, WA, that was contaminating a major aquifer with nitrates, decades after it went out of business. I don't think that any environmental issues can be attributed to anything other than overpopulation and the resulting consumption.

     I was pleasantly surprised to see PSAs in Mother Jones(given to me by a liberal relative), a few years back, describing immigration levels as unsustainable for the American environment. I hope their mindset catches on with progressives. Soylent Green, or probably worse, here we go.

     You can't see or smell what those tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are leaking into the Columbia river. If I had to choose, I'll take some methane stench over the invisible danger. Too bad people can't get as worked up over the nuclear reactors and their waste water in this country. God made that petroleum and it will return to its components in the blink of an eye compared to the eons it will take for nuclear waste to become harmless.


gregga777's picture

What would the elites do if their drinking water was full of roundup?

Seasmoke's picture

The Air at the WTC is not harmful - Christie Todd Whitfuck

OldPhart's picture

California, land of vegetables, fruits and nuts...centered in Sacramento.

SMC's picture

The executive summary is worth reading - consider reading the Key-Data Limitations and Uncertainties and the Conclusions sections first, then go back and start at the beginning.

After that, consider letting the agency and your representatives know your thoughts.