The more one learns about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) investigation of alleged well water contamination in North Texas by Barnett Shale gas wells drilled by Range Resources Corp., the more something smells, an industry newsletter publisher claims. After examining evidence presented in the case, Gene Powell Jr. said a congressional investigation of the EPA's action is in order.
Powell has written extensively in his Powell Barnett Shale Newsletter, on the Range well water contamination case, which came to light with an emergency order filed by EPA last December (see Shale Daily, Dec. 9, 2010). On Friday he published a special report on the case in which he summarizes what was revealed during a hearing at the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) (see Shale Daily, Jan. 20) and in depositions before and after (see Shale Daily, Feb. 1).
"The more that is uncovered about the EPA's action in this case, the more suspicious it becomes, in our opinion," Powell wrote. "We believe, after reading the depositions, evidence and exhibits in this case that a congressional investigation is warranted into the total abuse of power by the EPA and its Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz, who is responsible for all its actions. This case has national importance and should be based on fact, not theoretical supposition, innuendo or misinformed beliefs."
The alleged well contamination was being investigated by the RRC when EPA filed its emergency order. All along Range has claimed that natural gas in the water wells in question came from the shallow gas-bearing Strawn formation and not its deep drilling activity in the Barnett Shale. Powell has agreed with this assertion and said in his report that testimony and other case records support it as well.
"The evidence presented by Range through expert testimony showed facts that were established, including a long history of natural gas in water wells in the area prior to Range drilling their Butler #1H and Teal #1H Barnett Shale wells beginning in the first quarter of 2009," Powell wrote.
Powell has repeatedly criticized EPA for jumping the gun in the case and citing and fining Range without adequate proof that its gas caused the contamination. He has been especially critical of Alisa Rich, owner of Wolf Eagle Environmental LLC in Flower Mound, TX, who has been a consultant to landowner and complainant Steven Lipsky.
"Rich's sworn depositional evidence shows a pattern of dishonesty with repeated embellishments and misstatements of fact with regards to her educational background, employment history and theoretical sampling not using acceptable scientific procedures," Powell wrote.
Contacted by NGI's Shale Daily, Rich said her sampling and testing methodologies are all EPA-approved. Powell quoted testimony from Rich in which she said she has a Ph.D. and said this is not true. Rich did concede to NGI's Shale Daily that she does not have a doctorate; however, she said she is close to one, needing only to defend her dissertation.
As for Lipsky's water well, Rich said she has never claimed that the contamination came from activities of Range Resources. However, she said levels of contamination in the well are so high that they could not have come from gas simply migrating from another formation.