AP Exclusive: Wyoming got EPA to delay frack finding

AP Exclusive: Wyo. got EPA to delay frack finding by Mead Gruver, May 3, 2012, Associated Press
Wyoming’s governor persuaded the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to postpone an announcement linking hydraulic fracturing to groundwater contamination, giving state officials – whom the EPA had privately briefed on the study – time to attempt to debunk the finding before it rocked the oil and gas industry more than a month later, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. During the delay, state officials raised dozens of questions about the finding that the controversial procedure that has become essential to unlocking oil and gas deposits in Wyoming and beyond may have tainted groundwater near the gas patch community of Pavillion. Gov. Matt Mead contacted EPA Director Lisa Jackson and persuaded her to hold off any announcement, according to state emails and an interview with the governor. The more than 11,000 emails made available to AP in response to a state records request show that Wyoming officials took advantage of the postponement to “take a hard line” and coordinate an “all-out press” against the EPA in the weeks leading up to the announcement Dec. 8. Meanwhile, the chief state regulator of oil and gas development fretted over how the finding would affect state revenue. … “Contaminants present at high concentrations in the deep monitoring wells are likely a result of hydraulic fracturing,” read a “Key Findings” slide in an EPA PowerPoint shown at the meeting. Each slide was marked “Confidential-Do Not Disclose.” … Pavillion residents didn’t hear about the finding before the public announcement, said John Fenton, chairman of Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens. Fenton said he was unhappy that regulators hadn’t kept local residents fully apprised of the latest developments concerning their water supply. Yet he held EPA in higher regard than the state officials he said ignored Pavillion for years, prompting residents to request the EPA investigation. “Those of us living out here, we don’t trust the state,” he said.

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