Friday, December 9, 2011

EPA Releases Findings of Ground Water Investigation in Pavillion, Wyoming

The Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") recently released draft findings of a ground water investigation conducted in Pavillion, Wyoming. The report is available here. According to an EPA release, "[t]he draft report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing."

Commenting on the investigation, Jim Martin, EPA's regional administrator in Denver, said:
EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water. We will continue to work cooperatively with the State, Tribes, Encana and the community to secure long-term drinking water solutions. We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process. In consultation with the Tribes, EPA will also work with the State on additional investigation of the Pavillion field.
Some have hailed the draft report as evidence of the potential ground water impacts of fracking generally. Steve Jones of the Wyoming Outdoor Council noted that "[t]his is an important first indication there are potential problems with fracking that can impact domestic water wells. It's I think a clarion call to industry to make sure they take a great deal of care in their drilling practices." But the EPA has been careful not to generalize the results of its investigation, stating that its draft findings "are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells – production conditions different from those in many other areas of the country." And in an interview (video available here), EPA head Lisa P. Jackson confirmed that the particular formation in Wyoming may have contributed to the detection of chemicals in the ground water.

Encana, the company targeted by EPA's investigation, issued a statement that "[t]he EPA's draft report and current view is based on a possibility, not a conclusion built upon peer-reviewed science. The cause of the compounds in the water remains inconclusive. . . . Encana remains committed to seeing that the investigations into determining the source of the compounds found in the Pavillion groundwater are backed by sound science that is reviewed by independent peers." In a further release issued December 12, Encana identified a series of claimed discrepancies in the EPA's data and analysis, commenting that the EPA's "preliminary conclusions do not stand up to the rigor of a non-partisan, scientific-based review and that is of paramount importance to every natural gas producing community, every citizen and business that relies on natural gas and every industry worker."

The draft report will be available for a 45-day public comment period beginning December 14, following which a panel of independent scientists will subject the report to a 30-day peer review process. More information regarding EPA's investigation may be found on its website.

For more information regarding this matter, please contact Eric Adair or the KMTG attorney with whom you normally consult.

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