Journalism in the Public Interest

EPA Says Gas Drilling in Texas Contaminated Water and Presents ‘Threat of Explosion’

The Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order yesterday accusing a natural gas driller of contaminating water supplies in North Texas and giving the company 48 hours to provide potable water to those affected.

In a letter sent to the drilling company, Range Resources, [PDF], the agency said it had determined an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to a public aquifer through methane contamination related to the company’s oil and gas operations in the area. Two private wells had already been contaminated, according to the EPA:

The Agency has data to indicate that two private drinking water wells, and potentially more, have been significantly impacted by the methane contamination which presents a potential threat of explosion due to high levels found dissolved in the drinking water and methane vapors present in the headspace of the drinking water wells, and therefore presents a potential imminent endangerment to the health of persons using those private drinking wells.

A spokesman for Range Resources told Bloomberg that “we don’t believe the methane that is found in that water has any connection to our activities.” The company has operations in Texas’ Barnett Shale gas field and is one of the largest leaseholders in Marcellus Shale, the gas field that underlies New York and Pennsylvania, according to Bloomberg.

This is the first time that natural gas drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process—or fracking—have been suspected of contaminating water supplies in Texas, an EPA regional director told the Associated Press. As we’ve reported, other states including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado have all experienced contamination linked to gas drilling.

The EPA said it decided to investigate after receiving complaints from residents regarding concerns with drinking water and learned that neither the company nor the state regulatory agency had adequately addressed those concerns.

The order comes amid a clash between the EPA and the state of Texas over air pollution standards.

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that EPA sent letters last week to 74 Texas refiners and chemical plastic makers, threatening them with penalties if they don’t comply with federal law regarding air pollution permits. The agency has said that the permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fall short of federal Clean Air Act requirements.

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Just wait till Governor Rick gets this, he’ll be ready to leave the union for sure now.

Delusional is the only way to describe those that think they can extract gas at 5000 + feet below the surface using a surgical straw like technique of pumping high pressured toxic concoctions to crack the rock; all without any harmful residual effects.  To assume that all the gas and residue will not seep into other fissures/cracks in an environment where the rock is anything but consistent and continually shifting/moving is foolish.  Lisa Jackson has her work cut out for her, there are many “fools” who stand to make a handsome profit.

Yes, when Gov. Rick gets this, the epa better be on acation, permenantly. I sent him an e-mail asking if he was ready to lead the way on Article V convention. I haven’t heard back yet, but I think he has the will to do it.

More ProPublica shenanigans?

First, lets start with the obvious bait and switch: contamination. ProPublica has been pushing the line for several years now that gas drilling activities are responsible for groundwater contamination. While it is true that there have been a small handful of documented cases of methane contamination of aquifers many of the cases that ProPublica has insinuated were from drilling activities were, in fact, from naturally occurring gas sources not related to drilling activities. While the methane contamination from drilling activities is certainly a concern to landowners and municipalities, Propublica’s “bait and switch” (as seen in the article’s headline) comes in the form of stating that groundwater sources are being contaminated with drilling fluids.

This is pure bunk, there yet to be one single documented case of drilling fluids contaminating groundwater and there is, in fact, documented and verifiable evidence that even when methane contamination has occurred from drilling there is no associated aquifer contamination from drilling fluids. No matter how many times ProPublica says to the contrary, or strongly implies (as it is want to do) the evidence simply does not exist. 

As for this particular “contamination”, lets look a bit more closely at the EPA’s letter to Range Resources:

Region 6 has determined that an imminent and substantial endangerment to public drinking water aquifer has occurred (or may occur) through methane contamination which is directly related to oil and gas production facilities

Its clear from the EPA’s wording that it doesn’t have any evidence that the methane contamination is from drilling activities, only that there “might be” a problem in the future. Doesn’t sound as concrete as Mrs Wang would lead us to believe.

Additionally, Range Resources and the Texas Railroad Commission (the relevant local regulatory agency) have already conducted preliminary tests on the methane in question and have concluded that its not drilling related. These results were submitted to the federal EPA. The EPA claims it conducted its own testing, concluding that the gas is from Range Resources operations.

Now, if the EPA’s case was as strong as Mrs Wang was implying, wouldn’t it be useful of them to release the results of Range Resources and the Texas Railroad Commission’s evidence? Perhaps this would explain why the Railroad Commission is hopping mad about the EPA’s decisions, going so far as to call the EPA liars.

Nothing like letting a company which has no connection to the local community use technology with impunity.  Companies don’t need water, food or have friends.  They are actually anti-human values, non-national and for some reasons have “personhood” rights. 

New York State has imposed a moratorium on fracking.  All the potable water truck in the world can’t keep NYC in water.

Guenstige Uebernachtung

Dec. 22, 2010, 4:32 p.m.

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Feb. 10, 2011, 9:30 p.m.

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