State, local and Federal regulators have agreed on another
round of water sampling in Wyoming as they investigate claims
hydraulic fracturing contaminated ground water in the area.
The regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, agreed with some Native American tribes this week that
more water tests are needed, the Associated Press reported.
The delay is important because many assumptions about the
effects of fracking are linked to a controversial draft study in
Pavillion, Wy., which linked hydraulic fracturing to ground water
contamination in that town.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in recent weeks has appeared to
soften her stand on the potential dangers of fracking. Last
month, speaking at a New Jersey college, she changed previous
language that indicated she was skeptical about its dangers.
"Recent discussions between EPA, the State of Wyoming and the
Tribes have recognized the value of further sampling of
monitoring wells to develop additional information on groundwater
quality," EPA spokesman Rich Mylott told the AP.
The U.S. Geological Survey will conduct two more water surveys
before July. The first test could come next month.
The samples will be taken from two monitoring wells the EPA
already dug in the area.
"It is only going to further verify what the EPA has already
found here," said John Fenton, chairman of the Pavillion Area
Concerned Citizens, an affiliate of the Powder River Basin
Resource Council that is trying to hold the natural gas industry
Fenton's is among 10 families who've complained for years that
water in the area has been contaminated by natural gas
Fenton's own water, he said, became more saline and contains
methane. He said the EPA's analysis of the area's water shows
evidence of chemicals that have yet to be identified, beyond the
glycols the EPA was able to identify.
Fenton believes the EPA is conducting a new round of tests
because the agency caved in to outside pressure from oil and
natural gas industry players criticizing its draft report. He
said the new round of testing is likely to delay any final
determination by another year.
"People have been fighting this battle for a decade now,"
Fenton said. "People are very weary, people are tired. To us,
this adds another weight on our backs."
EnCana Corp. (
) the Calgary-based company that operates in the area, has
criticized the EPA draft report saying regulators sampled water
too close to naturally yielding zones of hydrocarbons, and have
thus misinterpreted their data.
EnCana's shares fell 9 cents to $19.78 in Friday trading.