Environmental Protection Agency ‘deeply troubled’ by reports of US environmental damage

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is deeply troubled by reports that it has failed to act on reports of environmental damage from fracking operations in North Dakota, a watchdog group said. 

In a statement on Friday, the US Chamber of Commerce said that “the EPA has not acted on a single complaint that it had received from a state about the fracking activities in North Carolina”.

“We are deeply troubled that the EPA has failed so far to take action,” said the Chamber, which is chaired by the chairman of the US Congress’s Environment and Public Works Committee, Joe Barton.

“This inaction reflects an agency that has not been fully transparent about the extent of its contamination of North Dakota waters, as well as a failure to act quickly to protect the environment and the health of the people of North Carolina.”

The chamber, which has long criticised the agency’s enforcement of environmental laws, said that the agency had failed to take immediate steps to halt fracking operations and protect the health and safety of its workers. 

“In the months since the EPA received the reports from North Dakota about fracking operations, EPA has been silent on any further enforcement action by state officials,” the chamber said.

The Chamber said it was “deeply concerned” by the report. 

According to a statement by the chamber, “the actions EPA has taken to protect public health and the environment have been woefully inadequate”.”EPA is deeply concerned about the fact that there have been no actions taken to enforce existing state law, which mandates that EPA enforce all laws in North America,” it said.

North Dakota has been fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) since April after the US Supreme Court ordered the pipeline be stopped due to fears it would contaminate waterways in the state.

The pipeline is part of a larger $3.8bn (£2.9bn) project by the US oil and gas industry to build a 2,100-mile (3,400-kilometre) pipeline to carry oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Texas to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The project is part-funded by the energy giant Chevron, which operates the pipeline. 

The EPA has a mandate to enforce laws across the country, which include requiring oil and chemical companies to disclose chemicals used in the manufacture of products. 

However, it has been unable to do so due to lack of funding, and has not enforced any laws since March 2017. 

 The DAPL project has faced criticism from environmentalists who have raised concerns about the environmental damage that would result if the pipeline were to leak.

The Environmental Protection Protection Agency has a responsibility to protect water, air and public health, and it must act swiftly to do that, said John Denton, an attorney for the North Dakota chapter of the Sierra Club. 

“[The EPA] is deeply worried that this has happened and they haven’t taken any actions to stop it,” he said.

“They’re in the dark as to how far they’ve gone in terms of protecting the environment.”

The EPA’s Inspector General (IG) and the department of energy and environment (DECE) are investigating whether the agency has done enough to protect its workers, and have said they are reviewing the report from North Carolina. 

North Dakota state Senator Dave Archambault III (D) said the EPA should immediately investigate.

“The EPA should launch a full, independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into this issue, and take swift action to protect our drinking water,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“We’ve seen reports of chemical spills in North Carolinias rivers and our drinking supply.”

North Dakota Senator Chris Paddie (D), who is chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said the agency needed to take a broader look at the safety of the DAPl pipeline.

“These allegations are deeply concerning and have been denied by the EPA and the state of North Dakotas officials,” he added.

“It is my expectation that the IG will conduct an extensive review into the issues raised in this letter and report back within 24 hours with its findings.”

A spokesman for the US Energy Department said the company was reviewing the reports, which he described as “inconsistent with the facts”.

“The department is committed to working with local officials to mitigate the effects of the proposed pipeline and will be providing assistance if required,” a spokesman said.

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