The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Is fracking environmentally safe? That's a key question surrounding the fast-growing method of gas and oil extraction -- and one that's triggered debate since the process became more economically viable. It isn't hard to see where the concerns come from: The fracking process involves injection of fluids -- mostly sandy water, but some chemicals as well -- to bore holes in rock, releasing trapped gas and oil. The fluids are then pumped out of the well, treated and disposed (or possibly, reused). Few take issue with the injected water and sand. But the chemicals have long been a source of contentious debate.
As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency has been studying the subject. Recently, it announced the results of a study of one Wyoming region that showed chemicals and natural gas existed at a depth only slightly below the water table -- and groundwater was shown to contain chemicals found at the bottom of gas wells. So that proves it, right? Perhaps not. The industry has stated the EPA's tests were conducted on a relatively unique case. In this particular region of Wyoming, natural gas is known to exist at very shallow depths. What's more, the gas deposits are not trapped by top rock -- so there's a greater likelihood of naturally occurring gas being released into the water table, fracking or no. Perhaps partially as a result, studies dating back roughly 50 years show poor quality drinking water even then -- long before fracking was even fathomed. So to doubt these findings seems reasonable.