A group of environmental organizations has written to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Region 6 administrator alleging that politics and not science caused the agency to drop a water contamination case against Range Resources Corp. and calling for a resumption of legal action.
The case dates back to the end of 2010 when EPA issued an "imminent and substantial danger order" against Range to halt its activities in the Barnett Shale in North Texas, which were alleged to have contaminated drinking water wells (see Shale Daily, Dec. 9, 2010). About 16 months later, EPA quit the case; regulators in Texas had all along said Range was innocent (see Shale Daily, April 2, 2012).
In their letter to EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry, the environmental groups said that "despite compelling evidence suggesting that Range Resources contaminated the water, the EPA rescinded the emergency order and ceased all legal action on March 29, 2012, soon after Range Resources protested."
When the case was dropped, the drilling industry and others characterized the decision as proof that the agency had acted without scientific integrity and that Range had not polluted the well water, the environmental groups said. "EPA did not explain its decision, which included withdrawal of the requirement that Range provide the families with drinking water."
The groups are Clean Water Action Texas, Earthworks, Environment Texas, Environmental Working Group, GASLAND, Public Citizen Texas and Texas Drought Project. In their letter to Curry they cited a January report by the Associated Press (AP) claiming that EPA had commissioned a report by an independent scientist in 2011 that "strongly suggests" that one of Range's gas wells was the source of the water contamination.
In a recent opinion piece published in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) wrote that "the AP article blatantly omits the facts in the case to boost claims from a "confidential report" that the AP supposedly possesses. The fact is that EPA Region VI usurped state authority and issued an emergency endangerment order against Range Resources without notice or opportunity for a hearing."
The environmental groups also cited a recent report by EnergyWire that claimed former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, pressured EPA to withdraw the action against Range.
The environmental groups' letter also calls upon EPA to require that Range supply clean drinking water to homeowners whose wells were found to have been affected.