Range Resources unit Range Production Co. may depose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official on Tuesday (Jan. 25), a federal judge in Austin, TX, has ruled. The agency has accused the company of contaminating water wells with its Barnett Shale drilling activities, a claim Range disputes.

The battle is ongoing between Range and the EPA, which did not show up for a hearing at the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) (see Daily GPI, Jan. 20).

"Prior to this point the EPA has not provided any discovery or any real complete documentation on how they reached some of their conclusions," Range spokesman Matt Pittzarella told NGI.

"Plaintiff Range Production Co. may depose by oral examination...an officer, director, managing agent or other person designated by [EPA] to testify on their behalf about information known or reasonably available to the United States Environmental Protection Agency that was requested in the subpoenas served on defendants by Range Production Co.," U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote.

During a hearing preceding his order, Yeakel said the contamination case is "of extreme significance" and could have national implications, according to a report by the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, TX.

Last month EPA issued an emergency order against Range, 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 region. That move sparked a battle of wills between the federal regulator and the RRC, which said it was already investigating the matter (see Daily GPI, Dec. 9, 2010).

A hearing began at the RRC on Wednesday morning and wrapped up early Thursday afternoon. Range put on two witnesses Thursday, both geologists, who supported the company's contention that it did not contaminate the water wells.

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