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Inhofe Looking Into Texas Contamination Case

Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, has requested all of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) documents related to its investigation of water well contamination in North Texas by Range Resources Corp.

Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works and a regular critic of EPA, wrote to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. seeking "all documents and records throughout the agency related to the communications between EPA Region 6 and U.S. EPA headquarters, both intra-agency and with outside entities" in connection with EPA's December emergency order against Range (see Shale Daily, Dec. 9).

EPA's finding of well water contamination in the Barnett Shale in North Texas is not disputed. What has been hotly debated -- by EPA, range and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) -- is whether Range caused the well water contamination. Range and RRC investigators believe the contamination is due to the natural migration of gas in the area. EPA's December order pointed the finger directly at range. However, in depositions taken as part of an RRC investigation, an EPA official backed off somewhat from declaring Range the definite culprit (see Shale Daily, Feb. 1).

Inhofe's request for documents follows calls by natural gas industry observer and newsletter publisher Gene Powell Jr. for a congressional investigation of EPA's handling of its investigation (see Shale Daily, Feb. 15).

The documents sought "would include materials and subject matter directly and reasonably related to all activities of the [EPA] leading up to and after the issuance of the emergency administrative order." Inhofe wrote.

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