PAVILLION, WY — For years, the gas drilling industry has been adamant that there’s never been an incident in which it was proved that hydraulic fracturing has caused contamination in ground water. Perhaps that is why the drilling industry and its supporters have pushed back so forcefully against a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released on December 8, which links fracking and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, WY.
Wyoming governor Matt Mead issued a press release saying, “The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of
the working group until a month ago.”
He continued, “We believe that the draft study could have a critical impact on the energy industry and on the country, so it is imperative that we not make conclusions based on only four data points… it would not be appropriate to make a judgment without verifying all of the testing that has been done.”
Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. was particularly critical, noting that the report did not show contamination of drinking wells but of deeper monitoring wells. The company said, “Many of the EPA’s findings from its recent deep monitoring wells, including those related to any potential connection between hydraulic fracturing and Pavillion groundwater quality, are conjecture, not factual and only serve to trigger undue alarm.”
On the other side of the issue, Briana Mordick, a science fellow at the National Resources Defense Council, summed up two important conclusions: “Groundwater near Pavillion, WY has been contaminated by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and those chemicals most likely reached groundwater through subsurface pathways.”
She continued, “The report is still in draft form and will undergo peer review and public comment before being finalized… If EPA’s conclusions are confirmed through this process, there can no longer be a question as to the serious threat that hydraulic fracturing can pose to our drinking water. As EPA stated, ‘Ground water contamination with constituents such as those found at Pavillion is typically infeasible or too expensive to remediate or restore.’”
Congressman Maurice Hinchey used the report’s release as a chance to reassert his long-held position that fracking should not be exempt from national environmental laws. He wrote, “Despite the facts, the shale gas industry has continually asserted that fracking has never caused groundwater contamination. The report from the EPA answers that false rhetoric with real facts. As scores of citizens from Dimock, PA to Pavillion, WY can attest, hydraulic fracturing poses a serious and direct threat to drinking water and should not hold a special exemption from our nation’s basic environmental laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act.”