Industry-funded study: EPA wrong about fracking contamination - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Industry-funded study: EPA wrong about fracking contamination

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An industry-funded review says there are problems with the Environmental Protection Agency's December draft study suggesting that groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., is "consistent with" hydraulic fracturing.

"EPA's study design was not sufficient to gather the data, nor draw the conclusions it asserts," reads the beginning of the review's conclusions.

"Review of U.S. EPA's December 2011 Draft Report: ‘Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming,'" was prepared by environmental and water resource consultants S.S. Papadopulos & Associates Inc. of Bethesda, Md.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America publicized the review on May 15. Although the document did not reveal a funding source, IPAA Vice President Jeff Eshelman acknowledged that his organization paid for the review.

The EPA investigation in Pavillion, where natural gas has been produced since 1960 and where Encana Oil and Gas conducted hydraulic fracturing from 2004 to 2007, was long awaited as an important test of the gas industry's assertions that there has never been an incident in which groundwater was contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.

The agency found preliminarily that there was groundwater contamination consistent with hydraulic fracturing when it released its draft report in December.

Industry representatives disputed the agency's methods at the time.

The current review of the EPA's draft finds, as industry said in December, that the agency proceeded without an adequate conceptual model of area hydrogeology and contaminant fate and transport.

Monitoring wells the agency drilled itself were constructed poorly, it concludes, and the agency's evidence could be explained by alternative hypotheses.

Back in December, industry widely publicized calls for a peer review by an independent panel of scientists.

That peer review panel is expected to be formed by fall.

Asked why the IPAA contracted for this study, given plans for the upcoming high-profile peer review, Eshelman said the IPAA saw some urgency.

He referred to Dimock, Pa., and Parker County, Texas, where initial suggestions of contamination of groundwater by recent oil and gas activity have been either found untrue or withdrawn.

"This is our basic review of the EPA report, but it also lays the foundation for how we think science should be the priority in any EPA report," he said.

The study may be downloaded from the IPAA website.

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