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FARMINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's finding that hydraulic fracturing does not impact drinking water needs greater clarification and support, according to the agency's advisory panel.

In the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board's final report issued Thursday, the panel says that the agency did not do enough in its assessment of hydraulic fracturing to "support quantitatively" that the drilling technique does not lead to "widespread, systematic impacts" on U.S. drinking water sources. The advisers also raised "concerns" over some of the major findings in the assessment report that "draw national-level conclusions."

In 2009, Congress called for the EPA to examine the potential impacts on drinking water by oil and gas drilling.

While 26 members of the board's Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel — made up mainly of hydrologists, geologists and scientists, many of them professors — agreed that the EPA's language in its June 2015 draft assessment would require further "clarification and additional explanation," four members with industry ties dissented, arguing the language was "clear, concise and accurate" in its current form.

"The statement provides a 'holistic' conclusion of the life cycle process of water used by the industry," the dissenting members wrote. "There has not been any facts or evidence demonstrating a systemic or widespread impact to existing drinking water resources ... In the absence of such documented events, the conclusion is clear that no systemic, widespread impact to drinking water resources is occurring."

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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