MERRY CHRISTMAS! Where are the regulators in America? Inspector general’s report says EPA justified investigating drinking water contaminated with dangerous levels of methane and benzene near fracking

Thank you for your courage Dr. Al Armendariz and Steve and Shyla Lipsky by TXSHARON, December 24, 2013, Bluedaze

On December 7, 2010, the Frackers Receive Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order from EPA.

On December 24, 2013, the Inspector General report justified EPA in Parker County fracking intervention and vindicated Dr. Al Armendariz for issuing that order.

Yee Haw!

In all that time in between, Steve and Shyla Lipsky have put up a valiant fight for the truth.

Thank you!

I will have more on the specifics of the IG report later but for now, just thank you!

Update: From the Star-Telegram:

To Armendariz, a former professor at Southern Methodist University who now works for the Sierra Club, the inspector general’s report is “complete and total vindication of the work we did at EPA.”

“Our evidence was solid and we followed the law, and all rules and regulations,” he said.

Breaking! Inspector General report justifies EPA in Parker County fracking intervention by TXSHARON, December 24, 2013, Bluedaze
Hoping no one would notice, Obama picked noon on Christmas Eve to release the Inspector General (IG) report that justified the EPA’s Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order in the Range Resources’ Parker County water contamination case.

The IG’s in-depth investigation findings:

  • EPA was right to issue the order.
  • Withdrawal reasons are unclear and questionable.
  • Recommends monitoring of Range Resources’ testing because the quality is questionable.

I just want to gloat for a moment and say: I told you so!

Inspector General: EPA justified in intervention to protect drinking water from fracking-enabled pollution

December 24, 2013
Response to Senator Inhofe accusation raises new questions as to why EPA withdrew its protection

December 24th 2014, Washington, D.C. & Parker County, TX – Today the EPA Inspector General found EPA Region 6 was justified in legally intervening to protect Parker County residents’ drinking water from drilling impacts. At Senator James Inhofe’s request, the Inspector General investigated to determine if Region 6’s intervention against Range Resources was due to political influence by the Obama administration.

“The EPA’s internal watchdog has confirmed that the EPA was justified in stepping in to protect residents who were and still are in imminent danger,” said Sharon Wilson, Gulf Regional Organizer of Earthworks. She continued, “Now we need an investigation as to whether political corruption caused EPA to withdraw that protection.”

EPA invoked its power to protect drinking water in 2010, prompting Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to request the Inspector General’s investigation in 2011. EPA withdrew its legal complaint against Range Resources in 2012 despite having a report from an independent scientist showing that a gas well drilled by Range likely polluted nearby water supplies.

EPA’s withdrawal from Parker County appears to be part of a larger pattern, in which the Obama administration has blocked or abandoned investigations of whether drilling or hydraulic fracturing polluted drinking water. In addition to the case in Parker County, reports in major news outlets indicate that the Obama administration caused the EPA to abandon studies of potential drilling or fracking pollution in Pavillion, WY and Dimock, PA despite evidence of drilling-related harm.

“The Obama administration appears to be more concerned about protecting corporate interests, not the public interest,” said Steve Lipsky. He continued, “President Obama promised that hydraulic fracturing would occur safely. With this IG report, it now seems clear that he is determined to squash any evidence to the contrary.”

Just prior to the release of the IG report, the Texas Railroad Commission (regulator of oil and gas, not railroads) opened an investigation into the case. EPA intervened in 2010 to protect area drinking water only after the commission refused to do so. The Commission’s new investigation prevents the EPA from legally intervening now as it did in 2010.

“Regulators shouldn’t have to be pressured into doing their job to protect people like me from drilling impacts,” said Shelly Perdue, a Parker County resident with drilling-polluted drinking water. She continued, “if what has happened to me is happening to others, I completely understand why communities across the country are voting to ban fracking and drilling.”

“Releasing this report at noon on Christmas Eve shows the Obama administration is obviously embarrassed by its findings,” said Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “As they should be. The withdrawal of Obama’s EPA is an abject failure of its mission to protect Americans’ health and environment.”

The question of the day is: Who pressured the EPA to back off this case? From Amy Mall’s blog post: …

  • EPA apparently stated that, because a homeowner with contaminated water could afford to purchase water from an alternative source, the risks had lessened.

When asked if he felt vindicated, landowner Steve Lipsky answered, “Hell no! I’m just getting started.”

When the EPA backed outRange filed a $4 million-dollar lawsuit against Lipsky for Conspiracy to Commit Defamation. And they tried to roll me into that lawsuit by calling me the “Orchestrator” of the conspiracy. Today Dr. Al Armendariz and Steve and Shyla Lipsky were vindicated. We thank them for their courage. [Emphasis added]

Report justifies EPA decision on fracking despite agency’s bow to industry by RT, December 24, 2013

EPA report on fracking in Texas raises new concerns, An inspector general’s report says the EPA was justified in investigating claims of water contamination near a fracking site in Texas by Neela Banjeree, December 24, 2013, Los Angeles Times
The Environmental Protection Agency was justified in intervening to examine possible risks of gas drilling to Texas drinking water, the agency’s internal watchdog reported Tuesday. ….the report raises fresh concerns about the EPA’s 2012 decision to halt its investigation into possible well-water contamination in Parker County, Texas. The EPA inspector general’s report is the latest analysis to spotlight the regulator’s handling of high-profile cases of alleged drinking-water contamination near natural gas drilling sites.

Over three years, the EPA has sampled water in Dimock, Pa., Pavillion, Wyo., and Parker County after residents complained that their water had turned foul once natural gas drilling began nearby. In each case, the EPA found evidence of contamination but declined to pursue further water sampling or disciplinary action against the energy companies.

In July, an internal EPA report indicated that workers in its Philadelphia office wanted to keep monitoring Dimock’s drinking water but EPA headquarters closed the investigation. The inspector general’s inquiry was started at the behest of Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other lawmakers who contend that EPA’s regional office in Texas, EPA Region 6, had exceeded its authority during the Parker County investigation. Many Republicans viewed the EPA’s investigation as a politically motivated attack against the oil and gas industry. On Tuesday, Inhofe’s office dismissed the inspector general’s report, saying it had “failed to examine [a] closed-door conspiracy” to ruin the reputation of the energy company involved, Range Resources.

The EPA got involved in 2010 because Range Resources and Texas regulators failed to act immediately on homeowners’ complaints of possible drinking water contamination, the report says. When the EPA conducted its own tests, it found such high levels of methane in the water supply of two homes that it posed a risk of explosion, the report says. EPA tests also showed that the water contained benzene, a known carcinogen, above the agency’s maximum contamination levels. Methane is the main component of natural gas, and an analysis performed for the EPA by an independent scientist found samples from the water supply to be nearly identical to the natural gas from the nearby Range Resources gas well.

Range Resources and Texas denied that the company’s gas development had contaminated the residents’ water. The EPA issued an emergency order against Range Resources to provide drinking water to the affected residents and to better monitor the gas well. When Range Resources did not fully comply, the Justice Department filed a complaint on behalf of the EPA in January 2011 but withdrew it by March 2012.

The inspector general’s report said the EPA and Justice Department halted their action because the EPA worried about the costs and legal risks of the case. Although most officials were confident of their evidence, “there was always a risk that the judge could rule against the EPA. If that happened, it would risk establishing case law that could weaken the EPA’s ability to enforce” parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the report said.

Range Resources threatened to refuse to cooperate with a study the EPA had begun into possible effects of fracking on drinking water if the agency disciplined it, the report said. The EPA shelved its complaint after getting a nonbinding agreement for access to the company’s sites, the report said, but so far Range Resources has declined to participate in the study.

A policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Amy Mall, said the EPA had enough evidence to intervene but “chose to step away from enforcing the law when drinking water was unsafe…. Drinking water quality should never be traded for a hollow promise that may never be fulfilled.” In a statement, the EPA said the report determined its actions were “supported by law and fact.” Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella denied that its natural gas development had contaminated drinking water and said it was reviewing the report. The company is pursuing a $3-million defamation lawsuit against Steve Lipsky, one of the homeowners who complained about his water.  [Emphasis added]

EPA’s Fracking Probe of Range Resources Met Rules, Review Says by Mark Drajem, December 24, 2013, Bloomberg
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency followed legal requirements in issuing an emergency order against Range Resources Corp. (RRC) for water contamination in Texas, the agency’s independent investigation arm said yesterday. The Office of Inspector General said in a report the EPA has agreed to take a new look at whether dangerous levels of explosive methane or other toxins persist in the local homeowners’ water wells, as investigators turned aside complaints from Republicans that the agency over-reached.

The “watchdog has confirmed that the EPA was justified in stepping in to protect residents who were and still are in imminent danger,” Sharon Wilson, a Dallas-based organizer with the environmental group Earthworks, said in a statement.

The investigators rejected complaints from Republican lawmakers led by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who asked the IG’s office last June to probe a finding by the local EPA office in 2010 that natural gas drilling contaminated the drinking-water wells of two homeowners. The case gained national importance because it was one of the just three instances where the agency under President Barack Obama linked gas drilling, which is booming with the use of hydraulic fracturing, to individual water woes. The EPA subsequently settled the case with Range and withdrew the legal filing against the company. The lawmakers argued that this showed the agency overstepped its authority in linking fracking to the individual water contamination, while Wilson and other environmental advocates said it showed it wilted before political pressure.

When Armendariz was in charge, the EPA initially linked Range to the water contamination of homeowner Steve Lipsky, who posted a video online of a hose linked to his well that contained so much methane he could turn it into a flamethrower. In its press statements the agency tied the case to fracking, which industry said was unjustified.

Wilson and other environmental groups are urging the EPA to pursue the Texas case, as well as two other complaints they say the agency dropped to appease industry. In Pavillion, Wyoming, the agency stopped a scientific probe before it was complete, and agreed to let the state lead the investigation. In Dimock, Pennsylvania, the agency also concluded that gas drilling wasn’t contaminating water. “EPA chose to step away from enforcing the law when drinking water was unsafe,” Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a blog yesterday. “As the IG has confirmed, EPA has never determined the overall risk to area residents, including whether their water is contaminated.” [Emphasis added]

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