A deposition of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) witness is expected to take place Tuesday as Range Resources Corp. pursues its challenge to an EPA emergency order charging water contamination on several fronts, including a petition last week to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
On Monday a Range spokesman told NGI's Shale Daily the company did not know which EPA official would show up for the deposition in Dallas. An EPA spokesman referred questions about the deposition to the U.S. Department of Justice, which did not respond by press time.
"...Range is confident, based on the extensive testing conducted by Range's highly qualified experts as well as the analysis of the Railroad Commission, that its production activities have not impacted the subject water wells and that the [EPA] order is both factually and legally unsupportable, in addition to being unnecessary given the prior and ongoing efforts of both Range and the Railroad Commission," Range said in its petition to the Fifth Circuit court.
The case involves an emergency order issued by the EPA against Range on Dec. 7, claiming that at least two drinking water wells in Parker County, TX, "have been significantly impacted by...methane contamination" from its oil and gas production facilities in the Barnett Shale. That move sparked a battle of wills between the federal regulator and the Texas Railroad Commission, which said it was already investigating the charges (see Shale Daily, Dec. 9, 2010).
EPA was a no-show at an RRC hearing last week on the matter, and Range has said the agency has failed to provide it with documentation to support its findings that the company contaminated the drinking water wells. Last week a federal judge ordered EPA to make someone available for a deposition (see Shale Daily, Jan. 21).
Range asked the Fifth Circuit court to find that the EPA order does not constitute a final agency action and is not subject to review under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA Region 6 took its action under that act.
"EPA, without legal or factual support, concludes in the order that Range's Butler and Teal Wells somehow 'caused or contributed to the endangerment' identified in the order," the company's petition said.