Farmer Jeff Locker and his wife considering suing Encana Corp, preferring judge and jury over Wyoming state and regulator officials; three state reports on Encana and water contamination delayed to 2014

Wyo. officials say reports in investigation on contaminated water near Pavillion delayed by The Associated Press, December 18, 2013, Casper Star Tribune
Residents near Pavillion will have to wait longer to find out more about what might have caused contamination in their well water. State officials told residents at a meeting Tuesday that two reports due this month would be delayed until early 2014. A third originally due in September 2014 will also likely be delayed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating the potential water pollution but stopped in June after repeated delays and controversy over its preliminary finding in 2011 that hydraulic fracturing polluted water supplies. It turned the probe over to the state, which isn’t targeting whether fracking did or did not cause the problem. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was originally due to complete two reports, on well integrity and disposal pits, this month. The third study on domestic water wells is being done by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Farmer Jeff Locker told the Casper Star-Tribune…that he doesn’t have much confidence in the state resolving the issue. Instead, he and his wife are considering suing Encana Corp., which operates the Pavillion gas field. “I’d rather sit before a judge and jury,” he said. … The state is providing cisterns for homes, and work on a water storage facility has begun. [Emphasis added]

Delays on long-awaited reports for Pavillion-area groundwater angers landowners by Benjamin Storrow, December 18, 2013, Star-Tribune
State officials said Tuesday two reports in the Pavillion area groundwater investigation would be delayed until early 2014, further angering landowners who have for years complained nearby natural gas operations contaminated their water wells. A third report will likely be delayed until after September, the initial deadline set for that study by the state, they said. Those comments were delivered at a meeting of the Pavillion Working Group in Riverton and come after repeated delays in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into potential water pollution. The EPA halted its study in June following a controversy over the agency preliminary finding that gas operations polluted water supplies in the area. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission were tasked with completing the investigation, of which Tuesday’s meeting was a part. “It doesn’t seem like we’re getting anywhere,” said John Fenton, chairman of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens Association, an advocacy group that has argued that gas operations and contaminated groundwater in the area are linked. “It’s what we heard at the last meeting (in August).”

Jeff Locker, a Pavillion area farmer who claims gas operations contaminated his water, said his wife and him are consulting legal counsel about the possibility of suing Encana Corp., the Canadian company that owns and operates the 130-well gas field east of Pavillion. “Our confidence in the state is such that I don’t want them to settle the issue,” Locker said. “I’d rather sit before a judge and jury.”

The state has yet to hire the independent experts who will review the state agencies’ three reports on the subject. The OGCC is conducting two studies, one into well integrity and another into disposal pits; DEQ is completing a study of domestic water wells. Many of the questions Tuesday focused on how those experts would be chosen. DEQ Director Todd Parfitt said the agencies would accept public recommendations on experts, but “ultimately the agencies are going to have to make a decision on who they are going to select, and provide that information to the public.” Grant Black, state oil and gas supervisor, said his department had received nine recommendations for experts on the well-bore study and none for the disposal pit investigation. Qualifications sought by the commission include a background in petroleum engineering, industry and academic experience, regional expertise and a lack of connection to the interested parties. “I think the biggest challenge is finding the expert that has the knowledge and meets the criteria,” Black said in an interview following the meeting.

The two OGCC reports were due by the end of December, said Jerimiah Rieman, policy adviser to Gov. Matt Mead, to the Star-Tribune last week. Black said drafts of both studies should be completed by year’s end while final versions should be done by February. The release of the DEQ report into water quality meanwhile will likely be after September given an early winter this year and the delays in OGCC’s investigation, Parfitt said. In a separate development, work on a water storage facility in Pavillion has begun, state officials said. The facility is a part of state efforts to truck in drinking water to Pavillion area residents. Installations of cisterns at residents’ homes should begin the second week of December, weather permitting, they said.
[Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Alberta family, the Daunheimers near Didsbury, suing Angle Energy for $13 million for causing harm to health, property, financial status, personal safety and water ]

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