Pavillion, WY, August 14, 2009 - This week U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told a group of over 70 that initial investigations found 11 of 39 tested drinking water wells were contaminated. Among the contaminants are toxics used in oil and gas production.
As part of a Superfund investigation, EPA began sampling in March 2009 in the Pavillion, WY area in response to multiple landowners concerns about changes in water quality and quantity following EnCana's increased gas development in the area. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and EnCana had continually assured Pavillion residents that there was no evidence of hydrocarbons or toxic chemicals in their drinking water wells.
In today's New York Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg's Editorial Observer Column Walking Where the Drilling Rigs Will Go, ruminates on what is lost by drilling in the Marcellus Shale -- and the ultimate loss of landowner control that goes along with it.
"[I]t is still hard to imagine how much this effort will transform the landscape. I walked with a friend along a gravel road near Peas Eddy. In a relatively flat spot in the woods, we came upon a surveyor s stake. If the state gives the go-ahead, that subtle opening will be replaced by an industrial-sized clearing to make space for a drilling rig and all the machinery needed to fracture the shale and extract and pump the gas. All of that equipment will travel on the gravel road we had just walked, which runs along a stream bank.
My friend has refused to sign a mineral lease for his land. Yet his refusal makes no difference. Once a certain percentage of landowners in a development block have agreed to sign and the state gives the green light the drillers can go ahead. The rigs will run up and down the roads, and the woods will take on the look of a heavy construction zone, all in the immediate vicinity of people who have tried to hold out against the drilling."
(Washington, D.C., June 9) - Today Senators Casey (D-PA) and Schumer (D-NY), and Representatives DeGette (D-CO), Polis (D-CO) and Hinchey (D-NY) introduced bills in the Senate and House to close the so-called "Halliburton Loophole" in the Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts hydraulic fracturing, and to require the public disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals. The Halliburton loophole authorizes oil and gas drillers, exclusively, to inject known hazardous materials -- unchecked -- directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies. It passed as part of the Bush Administration's Energy Policy Act of 2005.
"Energy development needn't threaten our drinking water and public health -- but under the Halliburton loophole, it does," said John Fenton, a rancher negatively impacted by drilling activity, and member of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens in Wyoming.