We can be confident that fracking for shale gas does not contaminate the water table, because shale gas formations are far below the water table. For fracking material to leak into the water table, they would have to leak upward. (A friend of mine who is an anti-fracking activist confirms this, saying that he is more concerned with pollution at the surface.)
In light of this, the EPA’s recent finding that fracking can contaminate water is surprising. That is, it’s surprising until you learn that the EPA drilled its “well” three times as deep as an ordinary water well, all the way down into a natural gas reservoir. That’s only the most serious of several objections to the EPA’s methodology.
The question that presents itself is whether the EPA is being dishonest or simply incompetent. A popular rule of thumb suggests never to blame on malice what can be explained by incompetence, but the incompetence theory tends to break down when all of the errors point in the same direction. Has Obama’s EPA ever made a mistake that understates an environmental threat?