Witnesses Say EPA Ground Water Research Report Requires Further Scrutiny

Feb 1, 2012
Witnesses Say EPA Ground Water Research Report Requires Further Scrutiny

Washington DC – Today the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to review the EPA’s approach to ground water research in Pavillion, Wyoming.  On December 8, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft report summarizing the Agency’s findings of its groundwater investigation in Pavillion. 

Witnesses highlighted a number of concerns with EPA’s December 8, 2011 draft findings, including the failure of the Agency to adequately consult with state and federal experts, the release of conclusions prior to adequate peer review, lack of adherence to information quality guidelines, a lack of data transparency, and sampling and monitoring well issues that call into question many of the results.

Noting that the Agency released 622 documents essential to analyzing the report last night, Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) said that “it is unfortunate that this transparency appears to only have been compelled by the calling of a Congressional oversight hearing.”

Harris further noted that, “in a remarkable display of arrogance and disregard for the plain facts, the President last week proclaimed his support for expanded shale gas production, while at the same time allowing every part of his Administration – from the EPA to Interior to the CDC – to attack these practices through scientific innuendo and regulatory straight-jacketing.”

Mr. Jim Martin, Regional Administrator of EPA’s Region 8, described EPA’s preliminary findings as indicating that “groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.” Martin further explained that “our analysis is limited to the particular geologic conditions in the Pavillion gas field and should not be assumed to apply to fracturing in other geologic settings.”

Mr. Tom Doll, State Oil and Gas Supervisor at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, questioned the Agency’s conclusions and highlighted its failure of the Agency to fully cooperate and take advantage of the state’s expertise: “The Pavillion Draft Report was issued with incomplete data and technically inadequate conclusions. There was no opportunity to review and verify the data by Wyoming state agencies. The data was not verified by further testing or vetted through a peer review process.”

“The EPA conclusion that hydraulic fracturing caused ground water contamination is limited to the data found in a single sample detect from single monitoring well located a natural gas field in central Wyoming.  Yet this fact is lost in the public reaction to EPA’s announcement and results in a worldwide damnation of hydraulic fracturing,” explained Doll.

“In the case of the draft Pavillion Report, EPA’s own data contained within the report don’t support the conclusions presented up front,” said Ms. Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance (formerly the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States).  She continued that “The report clearly has deficiencies that should have been addressed first with the state regulators who have intimate knowledge and technical experience with the aquifer in question. In addition, a conclusion with such broad implications should have first been tested through a scientific peer review of the work.”

The following witnesses testified at today’s hearing:

Mr. James B. Martin, Regional Administrator, Region 8, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Tom Doll, State Oil & Gas Supervisor, Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission

Ms. Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President, Government & Public Affairs, Western Energy Alliance

Dr. Bernard Goldstein, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh