EnCana co-opts EPA’s Study showing Encana’s fracturing and pits contaminated drinking water at Pavillion, Wyoming

EnCana takes over Funding of Govt Study into Fracking Water Contamination by Damien Gillis, July 8, 2013, Common Sense Canadian
What promised to be a ground-breaking report into the effects of natural gas hydraulic fracturing on groundwater has devolved into a classic case of the fox in charge of the hen house. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s hotly anticipated study into links between fracking and water contamination in Wyoming has been co-opted by the very company whose activities it was investigating – Canadian natural gas titan, EnCana. ProPublica is reporting that the Wyoming study – a draft of which was published in 2011, stirring up significant controversy and opposition from industry – has been abandoned by the EPA to Wyoming state authorities and will now be funded by EnCana. EnCana is also at the centre of a high-profile lawsuit regarding water contamination being brought in Alberta court by Jessica Ernst, an environmental consultant with 30 years experience working in oil and gas. Ernst herself released a landmark compendium of evidence regarding water contamination from fracking last month.

The draft 2011 Wyoming report found carcinogenic fracking fluids in a pair of deep groundwater monitoring wells drilled into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyoming. Local residents had been complaining that drilling “fouled their water has turned up alarming levels of underground pollution,” according to ProPublica – which has been doing leading-edge investigative work into the impacts of fracking on water from several years now. [Emphasis added]

Watching Government: EPA backs off Pavillion by Nick Snow, July 1, 2013, Oil and Gas Journal
They said Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality and Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will lead the scientific investigation and try to address concerns by evaluating the water quality of certain domestic water wells, the integrity of certain oil and gas wells, and historic pits in the Pavillion area. The state expects to conclude its inquiry and release a final report by Sept. 30. … EPA began working in 2009 with the state and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Indian tribes to identify the source of objectionable flavors and odors which citizens living outside the town reported in their drinking water. After five sampling phases, the federal environmental regulator documented “constituents of concern” but was not able to determine their source. Its efforts to evaluate potential migration pathways from deeper gas production zones to shallower domestic water wells in the Pavillion gas field were inconclusive. The two Wyoming agencies will review all relevant data, including EPA’s findings, and initiate an additional science-based inquiry using independent experts to assist with reviews, investigations, analyses and preparation of final reports. EPA and Encana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc., the field’s operator, will have the opportunity to provide input and recommend third-party experts. “While EPA stands behind its work and data, the agency recognizes Wyoming’s commitment for further investigation and efforts to provide clean water, and does not plan to finalize or seek peer review of its draft Pavillion groundwater report released in December 2011,” it said. “Nor does the agency plan to rely upon the conclusions in the draft report.” … Oil and gas groups welcomed the announcement. Martin J. Durbin, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, said it reaffirmed state regulators are best qualified to oversee upstream gas operations. But Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s upstream and industry operations director, said EPA “should not only drop the Pavillion work from consideration, it should fully retract it.” [Emphasis added]

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