Thomas Burke

Thomas Burke, a deputy assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, says new hydraulic fracturing report not meant as a tool to "green light" fracking, it should be used only as a guide. (Environmental Protection Agency)

A scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a new four-year study of hydraulic fracturing is not meant to give approval to the controversial method of extracting shale gas.

The new report by the EPA found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing causes widespread, systemic drinking water contamination.

Tom Burke, the science adviser to the EPA, says each region has to make its own decisions and the study is one tool to help make informed choice.

"It was never a study designed to determine whether fracking is safe or not," he said.

"It was a study determined to look at the use of water and the potential vulnerabilities of our drinking water resources."

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of capturing shale gas by injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into the earth under high pressure to fracture shale rock formations and release trapped natural gas that is otherwise not attainable.

Premier Brian Gallant has said the report on fracking could play a valuable role in his government's approach on whether to allow shale gas development in the province.

But Burke said the latest study should be examined next to other scientific investigations.

"I think it's an important tool to help guide decisions, but those are individual territorial decisions that there are so many factors that play into this," he said.

"I think it's important to understand how we can protect our groundwater and our drinking water resources but that's not the intent of the study to give any kind of green light, or red light."

Burke added, the report is a draft that still needs a thorough review from other scientists.

The Gallant government imposed a moratorium on shale gas development in New Brunswick last year, but he also has a commission in place to study whether the moratorium should stay in place.