Trump administration changes EPA website to be kinder to fracking

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At the beginning of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made changes to its website pages on fracking. 

A watchdog group known as the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative tracked those changes across the EPA’s site and just released a report documenting the group’s findings. The result of the changes has left an official U.S. government website looking more like an extension of the fossil fuel industry than a federal agency with a mission to protect the environment.

The most obvious EPA website change from the report is the very title of the fracking page. Previously called “Natural Gas Extraction – Hydraulic Fracturing,” the EPA webpage on fracking is now titled “Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development.” 

One read on this change is that the EPA is looking to broaden the scope of the page to include additional methods to extract fossil fuels from within the earth. Another read on the matter is that it’s an effort to remove “Hydraulic Fracturing” or “fracking” from the lexicon — a term that has an increasingly negative connotation.

A Wayback Machine archive of the EPA's fracking page before and after the Trump administration made its changes.

Image: Environmental Data & Governance Initiative

The EPA’s website on fracking as a whole now reads as if its intended audience is the fossil fuel industry as opposed to individuals concerned about fracking and its impacts. Other notable changes include a “Convening stakeholders” section emphasizing EPA partnerships with the oil and natural gas industry and the removal of content related to furthering the scientific community's understanding of fracking’s health and environmental effects. 

SEE ALSO: The EPA completely axed its climate change websites. But why are NASA's still live?

Fracking is a method of removing natural gas and oil from shale rock. The process involves drilling into the ground and injecting the embedded rock with a high pressure water mixture in order to extract the gas. Fracking is extremely controversial due to a variety of environmental concerns such as the pollution of groundwater with the chemicals pushed into the earth. The fracking process has also been attributed to the creation of tremors within the earth. 

Environmentalist Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary Gasland included a now-infamous scene highlighting the impact on those who live around fracking sites. The film shows a man lighting his tap water on fire as it pours out of his sink faucet, an apparent result of nearby fracking.

Trump’s first head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, oversaw the agency during the website changes. Pruitt resigned in July following months of ethics scandals. For those hoping a post-Pruitt EPA will once again center science at the core of the organization — and on its website — Andrew Wheeler, who succeeded Pruitt as EPA head, is a former coal industry lobbyist.

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