Posted April 2, 2012
In December 2010 Jane Van Ryan put up a post urging us to not rush to judgment on fracking. The case in question was in Texas where the EPA issued an emergency order:
"…that 'tried, convicted and sentenced' a natural gas company accused of polluting two water wells in Texas with methane gas. Weeks later, evidence shows that the company Range Resources was not responsible for the methane leaks. As the article authored by Alex Mills of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers explains, the water wells were drilled in 2005 and Range Resources drilled two natural gas wells nearby in 2009. In August this year, the water wells' owners complained to the state agency that oversees oil and natural gas drilling that their wells had become contaminated. They blamed Range Resources. Tests showed, however, that the methane did not come from Range's natural gas wells. In a meeting with EPA officials, Range Resources learned that an EPA engineer acknowledged that the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking, in the deep natural gas wells was not the cause."
The evidence was clear that fracking did not cause the problem, so clear in fact, that 15 months later the EPA has finally withdrawn its “imminent and substantial endangerment order.” Energy In Depth notes:
"But while today’s filing finally puts an end to a case whose scientific foundation had cracked, then crumbled, then outright disintegrated many months before, it reignites the conversation about what’s become a troubling trend for EPA: Every time EPA intervenes in a high-profile case – generating scads of maligning headlines about shale and hydraulic fracturing in the process – the agency ends up getting it wrong."
More from the Wall Street Journal:
"In addition to dropping the case in Texas, the EPA has agreed to substantial retesting of water in Wyoming after its methods were questioned. And in Pennsylvania, it has angered state officials by conducting its own analysis of well water—only to confirm the state’s finding that water once tainted by gas was safe. Taken together, some experts say, these misfires could hurt the agency’s credibility…"
The industry is committed to producing energy from shale safely and responsibly, and in addition to strong industry standards, there are appropriate federal and state regulations in place for oil and natural gas operations, including those that employ hydraulic fracturing. And many state rules have recently been strengthened. For this to work, however, we need government to be committed to responsible regulation and enforcement. The EPA’s troubling pattern of seeking maximum publicity for hydraulic fracturing cases before the facts are in serves neither the public nor the environment. This is not a three strikes and you are out situation, but it should be a wake-up for the EPA that changes are needed in their approach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.