US report leaves debate open on contested Wyoming fracking study

US report leaves debate open on contested Wyoming fracking study by Ayesha Rascoe, September 27, 2012, Reuters
* USGS report offers no interpretation of data
* Results generally consistent with previous findings – EPA
* Wells improperly constructed – Encana
WASHINGTON, Sept 26 (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Wednesday released the latest water quality results from a Wyoming aquifer that federal regulators said was contaminated by natural gas drilling, but the data will likely do little quiet debate on the cause of the polluted groundwater. While the United States Geological Survey report included raw data from samples it collected from a well near Pavillion, Wyoming, in April and May, the agency did not provide any analysis, leaving the information open to varying conclusions. “Interpretation was not part of the scope of the report,” USGS spokesman Dave Ozman said. Pavillion, Wyoming was thrust into the national spotlight late last year when the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report finding that hydraulic fracturing fluids used in natural gas drilling likely polluted groundwater in the area. The report contradicted arguments by gas drillers that fracking fluids have never contaminated drinking water.

The data released by the USGS on Wednesday “is generally consistent with ground water monitoring data previously released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Pavillion, Wyoming area,” the EPA said in statement on Wednesday. The EPA will soon release additional data it collected from the wells. Once finalized, the information from the EPA and the USGS will be submitted to for independent peer review.

Encana, which has raised concerns about the adequacy of the EPA’s monitoring of wells, pointed out that the USGS was only able to sample one of the two wells. “This goes to the heart of concerns raised by state and federal agencies, as well as Encana – EPA’s wells are improperly constructed,” Hock said in a statement. The USGS said it did not sample the second well because it was not able to apply the same method it used for the first well.

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