Wyoming's state oil/gas supervisor found himself Wednesday cross ways with Gov. Matt Mead regarding the continuing multi-governmental scrutiny of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) two test water wells in natural gas fields near Pavillion, WY. EPA initially identified a possible link between hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and local drinking water contamination.
Oil and Gas Supervisor Tom Doll in a presentation earlier in June to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Association meeting in Vancouver, BC, and in subsequent remarks to news media accused EPA of sacrificing scientific accuracy for political expediency. The remarks come at a time when Mead's administration is trying to work with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and be responsive to residents' concern about the safety of their local water supplies and fallout on property values since the EPA began its testing and reports three years ago.
Doll was quoted in an industry trade publication as contending that the EPA Pavillion investigation so far was "more politically motivated than science-motivated." His actual presentation on the association's website said EPA's draft results from the two test wells were inconclusive on whether even local ground water -- let alone drinking water -- had been impacted, and the EPA report was "incomplete, inadequate, erroneous and political science." Doll said it was put out prematurely before Wyoming state officials could review it, or further testing to verify initial data could be done.
Doll went on to say in the presentation that EPA data "erroneously escalated" local Pavillion ground water data to national and international levels, and longer term "science based efforts are being planned by the state, the [Native American] tribes, the U.S. Geological Survey and EPA." Calls and e-mails by NGI's Shale Daily to Doll to verify and clarify his remarks at the association meeting were not returned as of the end of the day Wednesday.
Doll's allegations of the EPA tests being politicized were denied by Mead communications director Renny MacKay, who told NGI's Shale Daily that Doll's comments "do not reflect the view of this administration," adding that Mead already has directed Wyoming state agencies and their staffs to ensure "an open and transparent process to address the concerns of Pavillion area residents."
MacKay said Doll's comments as presented to him contradict the governor's expectation. "Gov. Mead is committed to ensuring that residents in the Pavillion area have clean drinking water," MacKay said. "It is premature to draw conclusions about the outcome of the current scientific investigation that will be informed by sampling and analysis of the EPA's deep monitor wells."
Even though no contamination of drinking water has yet been confirmed and EPA has said the local water is safe, the testing and initial reports last year have cast a pall over the area that earlier this year was being felt in the day-to-day economy. Businesses and landowners have run into resistance from potential customers concerned about water supplies, according to news reports in March (see Shale Daily, March 1).