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The EPA reverses its earlier finding and says fracking can contaminate drinking water

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Last year, the EPA refused to rule that hydraulic fracturing -- better known as fracking -- did "widespread, systematic" harm to America's drinking water supplies. 

On Tuesday, a new EPA report reversed that finding, saying that fracking poses a risk to drinking water in certain circumstances, but a lack of information prevented the agency from saying how severe that impact might be. 

The EPA's reversal is significant -- a pro-fossil fuel Trump administration will take charge in weeks.

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In this March 25, 2014 photo, a worker adjusts hoses during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. oil well, near Mead, Colo. The first experimental use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, and more than 1 million U.S. oil and oil wells have been fracked since, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The National Petroleum Council estimates that up to 80 percent of natural oil wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

With fracking, water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground at high pressure, breaking shale rock to release natural gas and petroleum. Potential problems include chemical spills, faulty machinery and seepage.

It is beyond absurd for the administration to reverse course on its way out the door.
Erik Milito, American Petroleum Institute

Some in the oil industry, who interpreted the initial report as evidence that fracking was safe, were outraged at the new report. 

Pro-oil group Energy In Depth still found good news in the report, saying it refuted the claim that fracking is contaminating groundwater nationwide. 

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FILE - In this May 28, 2014 file photo, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson listens to a reporter's question after the annual meeting ExxonMobil shareholders meeting in Dallas. In 2015, natural gas has fallen even further than oil as U.S. drillers have been producing enormous amounts of gas and mild winter weather kept demand relatively low. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump's newly named Secretary of State pick, Rex Tillerson, is suing to stop construction of a water tower used for fracking near his Texas mansion, The Nation reports.

Some critics of fracking, including Mark Ruffalo, rejoiced at the report.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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