EPA backs off on fracking contamination claims in Texas

posted at 11:45 am on April 1, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Down in the Lone Star State, while it may be too soon to get our hopes up, it appears that a ray of sanity based sunshine may be breaking through the clouds of progressive political obfuscation surrounding the issue of natural gas drilling. And it didn’t even take a court to enforce it. In one pending case involving alleged contamination of ground water by energy exploration efforts, the EPA has backed out of a law suit and said that their claims can not be backed up by the evidence. They also signaled that they will revisit at least two more similar cases before deciding whether or not to proceed.

The Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked on high-profile local allegations linking natural-gas drilling and water pollution.

On Friday, the agency told a federal judge it withdrew an administrative order that alleged Range Resources Corp. had polluted water wells in a rural Texas county west of Fort Worth. Under an agreement filed in U.S. court in Dallas, the EPA will also drop the lawsuit it filed in January 2011 against Range, and Range will end its appeal of the administrative order.

In addition to dropping the case in Texas, the EPA has agreed to substantial retesting of water in Wyoming after its methods were questioned. And in Pennsylvania, it has angered state officials by conducting its own analysis of well water—only to confirm the state’s finding that water once tainted by gas was safe.

Some of us have been screaming this from the rooftops for years now, but to little avail in DC since 2006. So much of the hyperbole surrounding these claims came directly from Josh Fox’s fictional pseudo-documentary and green warrior dream ticket, Gasland. Of course, his most exciting and controversial claims were completely outside the realm of actual science. One of the most famous, as I’ve explained before, was the case of the Pennsylvania homeowner who had so much natural gas coming up from his well that he could set the sink on fire in his kitchen.

That much was true. Of course, it’s also true that you can do that in homes with in-ground wells all over Pennsylvania and Virginia in places where no drilling has taken place. With one pending case in Texas, the EPA seems to have finally noticed. (Emphasis mine)

The EPA bypassed the Texas Railroad Commission, which it said failed to address an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to public health. It ordered Range to supply water to the affected residents, identify how gas was migrating into the aquifer, stop the flow and clean up the water.

After the EPA sued Range for not complying with its order, Range appealed, arguing that the agency’s analysis was inconclusive. It pointed to nearby water wells that were known to contain high concentrations of gas long before it began drilling.

The railroad agency, which regulates oil and gas, concluded last year that gas most likely seeped into the aquifer from a shallow pocket of gas nearby, not the Barnett Shale, thousands of feet underground, from which Range was producing gas.

If you go to areas with huge concentrations of hydrocarbons under the ground such as Pennsylvania, West Virgina, Ohio or Texas, and you drill holes in the ground, you’re going to hit natural gas. That’s why we drill there. And the hole doesn’t have to be a gas well. It happens in water wells too.

And yet I attend rallies of Green Warriors where I live and see people talking about natural gas as if it’s just “gasoline” that shows up naturally under the ground. (So, of course, we should leave it there.) I’m not kidding… I heard a guy say that in New York last year.

Science for Dummies Alert: Gasoline and natural gas are entirely different things. Natural gas is a complex mixture composed primarily of Methane at roughly 80% (CH4) and Ethane (C2H6) with a few other sundry compounds tossed into the mix. Gasoline is mostly heptane (C7H16) and octane (C8H18) with some significantly lower amounts of everything from C6 to C11 tossed in. (We can’t actually refine to the level of compound specificity many people think we can, at least not in an economical fashion.)

Let’s put on our optimist caps and hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts rather than taking all their testimony from Josh Fox and a collection of Hollywood wannabes.


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As I’ve said before, the easiest way to demonstrate that the “light speed” barrier can be broken isn’t the supercollider at CERN.

It would be to discover an abundant and cheap source of practical energy that would enable Americans to own whatever car or house they want and afford the energy.

If you did such a thing agents of the Regime would literally show up to STOP YOU before they left Washington…

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM

But the Maypearl earthquakes! The EPA needs to save Texas from the earthquakes!

cozmo on April 1, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Let’s put on our optimist caps and hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts

No, there is something else afoot.

Count on it.

roy_batty on April 1, 2012 at 11:53 AM

I hope their ruling that CO2 is a pollutant meets the same fate.

blink on April 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

One of the first thing that needs to happen in the first 100 days of the coming Republican administration and congress is to REVOKE, by statute, the EPA’s assumed authority to reguate CO2.

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 11:53 AM

No, there is something else afoot.

Count on it.

roy_batty on April 1, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Could be. What would be most likely is that their “evidence” against fracking and against CO2 are about to be exposed as fraudulent.

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Let’s put on our optimist caps and hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts

The eternal pessimist in me says there has to be another reason.

Obama’s EPA is up to something.

VibrioCocci on April 1, 2012 at 11:57 AM

I hope their ruling that CO2 is a pollutant meets the same fate.

blink on April 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

….especially since most of that CO2 comes out of the EPA’s a$$!

KOOLAID2 on April 1, 2012 at 11:58 AM

So much of the hyperbole surrounding these claims came directly from Josh Fox’s fictional pseudo-documentary and green warrior dream ticket, Gasland. Of course, his most exciting and controversial claims were completely outside the realm of actual science.

IOW, he’s a typical lib. He found a narrative that can make him some money, and he’ll keep pushing it, no matter how many facts contradict it.

AZCoyote on April 1, 2012 at 11:58 AM

So the EPA changes their mind, Emily Litella style. Will they be reimbursing the legal costs of the defendants?

azkag on April 1, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Isn’t it wonderful what there is so much oil and gas here in TX and other states, we can drill a water well and hit paydirt of oil or gas? Well it isn’t quite that good but close? But bho is trying with everything he has to stop the oil and gas drilling for his foto’s green companies!

The epa has way over stepped their authority and they know it? I hope other states take the epa to court and win!
L

letget on April 1, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Let’s put on our optimist caps and hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts rather than taking all their testimony from Josh Fox and a collection of Hollywood wannabes.

LOL. Authority corrupts. Absolute authority,….well,……. you know how it goes.

a capella on April 1, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Watch the first Ghostbusters again. The antagonist government agent trying to shut-down the protagonists is an EPA agent.

BigGator5 on April 1, 2012 at 12:02 PM

the EPA has backed out of a law suit and said that their claims can not be backed up by the evidence

The EPA cares about facts and evidence? Since when?

They’re up to something.

iurockhead on April 1, 2012 at 12:07 PM

The EPA is gonna run this country into the ground, with this lawsuit bs!

angrymike on April 1, 2012 at 12:09 PM

No more Flukeing Texas for fracking?

KOOLAID2 on April 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Wnen will Sketchy ‘promise’ to abolish the EPA?

NEVER!

DannoJyd on April 1, 2012 at 12:13 PM

This was shelved because Barry is entering general election mode.

This has always been one of his tactics.

He’s going to neutralize as much as he can, as late as he can, so when it’s brought up in a debate, he can shrug and act like the moderator is misinformed or his opponent is lying.

Think back to the economic roundtable with Bush and McCain. He walked in knowing what Boehner was going to propose, blew up the meeting, and then walked out in front of the cameras, acting everyone else is losing their cool.

So when Romney is hammering him for hyper-regulation and spiking energy prices, Barry can point to this say “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. He is then hoping the right explodes, so he can point again and say “see, they’re crazy”. In boxing terms, W used to do rope-a-dope, Barry does stick-and-move.

budfox on April 1, 2012 at 12:13 PM

This EPA fracking brew-ha-ha has never been anything but political posturing by the DemocRAT Party to please the eco-freaks and promote their non-energy producing eco-fantasy propaganda as a viable alternative to reason.

aposematic on April 1, 2012 at 12:16 PM

The Most Interesting Man in the World may have permission to mess with Texas. The EPA does not.

cartooner on April 1, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Frack the EPA…

Khun Joe on April 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

… hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts.

“Ha, ha, April Fool!”

— EPA, April 2, 2012

PatriotGal2257 on April 1, 2012 at 12:27 PM

This small admission of reality by EPA is like the East German Stasi state police after the Soviet Union and East Germany fell. They went from dreaded interrogators to old men worried about their pensions.

Maybe they know they will not always have Obama to protect their counterproductive, worse than useless jobs.

WhatNot on April 1, 2012 at 12:28 PM

As Texas landowners receiving checks via the Barnett Shale, we’ll spend a little time wearing our optimist caps !
They’re red, with big blue T’s on ‘em !! ;-)

pambi on April 1, 2012 at 12:37 PM

“Ha, ha, April Fool!”

— EPA, April 2, 2012

PatriotGal2257 on April 1, 2012 at 12:27 PM

That was my first (and second and third…) thought when I saw the headline.

Eren on April 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM

So much of the hyperbole surrounding these claims came directly from Josh Fox’s fictional pseudo-documentary and green warrior dream ticket, Gasland. Of course, his most exciting and controversial claims were completely outside the realm of actual science.

IOW, he’s a typical lib. He found a narrative that can make him some money, and he’ll keep pushing it, no matter how many facts contradict it.

AZCoyote on April 1, 2012 at 11:58 AM

Hey, selling snake oil made fat Al Gore a near-billionaire. Ditto fat Mikey Moore. It’s a path to incredible riches.

slickwillie2001 on April 1, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Plouffe and Axelrod told the EPA to back off because the energy issue is hurting Obama so much

breffnian on April 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM

EPA has backed out of a law suit and said that their claims can not be backed up by the evidence.

OMG! You mean that just having a “theory” is not enough?

Too bad there aren’t any judges with the balls to throw these cases out of court in the first place.

GarandFan on April 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM

I don’t believe that the EPA has undergone some type of epiphany. This is merely election year maneuvering. Some of Obumbler’s “flexibility” which he promised to Putin via Medvedev, will put EPA right back on the attack on Fracking, should the traitor be re-elected.

tngmv on April 1, 2012 at 1:31 PM

I wonder if their recent spanking from the Supreme Court had anything to do with it.

CurtZHP on April 1, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Too bad there aren’t any judges with the balls to throw these cases out of court in the first place.

GarandFan on April 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Yep. And this is the criteria by which ALL federal judges should be periodically reviewed. They should make an effort to NOT burden the system with frivolous claims. Judges who are scored as not being aggressive about that should be scored as such and recommended for impeachment.

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 1:40 PM

This was shelved because Barry is entering general election mode.

This has always been one of his tactics.

He’s going to neutralize as much as he can, as late as he can, so when it’s brought up in a debate, he can shrug and act like the moderator is misinformed or his opponent is lying.

Think back to the economic roundtable with Bush and McCain. He walked in knowing what Boehner was going to propose, blew up the meeting, and then walked out in front of the cameras, acting everyone else is losing their cool.

So when Romney is hammering him for hyper-regulation and spiking energy prices, Barry can point to this say “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. He is then hoping the right explodes, so he can point again and say “see, they’re crazy”. In boxing terms, W used to do rope-a-dope, Barry does stick-and-move.

budfox on April 1, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Exactly, its all politics within the regime.
Anything that slows down their momentum potential to be in power for the next four years gets shelved and real quick.
Anyone wonder why ozero is going down south to show support for a pipeline he has nothing at all to do with? While he disses the Canadian end of Keystone! Does not happen in a vacuum its all expedience,what will promote the regimes interests at the moment.Currently Barry boy is a “drill baby drill” proponent,at least for the next few weeks.

rodguy911 on April 1, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I wonder if their recent spanking from the Supreme Court had anything to do with it.

CurtZHP on April 1, 2012 at 1:40 PM

No doubt that it probably did. The EPA smacked into a wall on that one. Their SOP for decades now has been to issue a Dikat without any DUE PROCESS WHATSOEVER to contest. They’ve become lazy and complacent, knowing that they basically never have to prove ANYTHING, they just issue a Diktat and get compliance.

They became arrogant, so arrogant that they FINALLY did it to the wrong people, some average Joes who had nothing to lose because the EPA was, in effect, confiscating everything they had. And so they fought, knowing that if they lost they’d be in no worse a position than they already WERE in. And they won! A true David vs Goliath story. Or in this case, David vs Leviathan…

Now that they are actually going to have to back their crap up, I think they are scared. Now that their targets CAN get their day in court this means that they have the opportunity to present EVIDENCE that the EPA is making sh!t up and going on Sierra Club talking points.

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 1:45 PM

According to an article here, the EPA used an emergency

Emergency Administrative Order (EAO) to Range Resources, requiring Range Resources to halt its drilling activities

and force them to do extensive testing of the methane contamination in nearby wells. By using this emergency order, the EPA didn’t have to prove its case, but could just issue the order.

Range had a counter-suit against the EPA pending, which was dropped as part of the settlement. Although Sackett v.s. the EPA didn’t apply in this case, after getting spanked in one case, it may be the EPA didn’t want to get another paddling for ignoring the existing evidence and yet using the emergency procedures anyway.

STL_Vet on April 1, 2012 at 1:52 PM

Range had a counter-suit against the EPA pending, which was dropped as part of the settlement. Although Sackett v.s. the EPA didn’t apply in this case, after getting spanked in one case, it may be the EPA didn’t want to get another paddling for ignoring the existing evidence and yet using the emergency procedures anyway.

STL_Vet on April 1, 2012 at 1:52 PM

There you go. They used shoddy evidence to further Obama’s political agenda of propping up “green” energy by obstructing the production of useful energy, knew it, and knew that they can no longer get away with this sort of thing uncontested because of the Sackett case.

And now that this precedent has been set you are going to see industry push back against the EPA, and succeed in it too.

How DARE anyone insist that the EPA actually have FACTS AND EVIDENCE when “saving the planet” LOL!

wildcat72 on April 1, 2012 at 2:00 PM

What a bunch of gasholes. This is definitely political and not because of any epiphany for the EPA. Should Zero be reelected, I assure you they won’t be in shoring up their ‘theories’ with evidence. The EPA can go frack themselves.

ghostwalker1 on April 1, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Anyone wonder why ozero is going down south to show support for a pipeline he has nothing at all to do with? While he disses the Canadian end of Keystone! Does not happen in a vacuum its all expedience,what will promote the regimes interests at the moment.Currently Barry boy is a “drill baby drill” proponent,at least for the next few weeks.

rodguy911 on April 1, 2012 at 1:42 PM

This what Romney, Newt and Santo should be consistently pointing out. Everything Barry does is related to his numbers.

Newt’s actually the best at this. He’s willing to call out moves 0 is going to take and it screws with Barry’s timing.

If they kept hammering Barry on domestic tactics – energy, healthcare, OWS – he’s going to end up on the defense, and that’s when he sucks.

First, he starts blaming people, then his tone gets strained.

budfox on April 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

But the Maypearl earthquakes! The EPA needs to save Texas from the earthquakes!

cozmo on April 1, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Never mind the earthquakes…

STOP CONTINENTAL DRIFT!!!

fred5678 on April 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

STOP CONTINENTAL DRIFT!!!

fred5678 on April 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

I wouldn’t go that far. I have some long term options on a spot in the Pacific just to the east of Hawaii’s big island. It ought to be a paradise in about a million years.

cozmo on April 1, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Just another small win for Texas in a huge battle with the Federal Government. Don’t forget that the Fed. Fish and Game Dept. wants to put the Sand Dune Lizard on the *endangered species* list to stop our drilling. Do you see the sand dune lizard on the TPWD website? No. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/endang/animals/reptiles_amphibians/

Southern Tragedu on April 1, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Isn’t the EPA set to release new fracking regulations soon? Industry reports it could reduce fracing and natural gas production by up to 50%.

Perhaps they realize the folly of trying to win a no win lawsuit when their regulations will do just as good a job.

LifeTrek on April 1, 2012 at 5:19 PM

Plouffe and Axelrod told the EPA to back off because the energy issue is hurting Obama so much

breffnian on April 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM

^ most likely explanation. Sad for our nation, but it’s solidly established that Zero-and-crew are a very sad episode in our Republic’s history.

Who is John Galt on April 1, 2012 at 7:32 PM

The EPA is trying to look good. They were ordered by the judge to back off. As soon as they get a few more court orders they may pretend to back off.

seven on April 1, 2012 at 7:46 PM

What’s the new meme?

“Frack the EPA!”

Who is John Galt on April 1, 2012 at 8:04 PM

Ignore the fact that gas showed up in wells before the fracking – we still want to blame fracking.
Ignore the fact that the earth has warmed and cooled on it’s own for millions of years – we still want to blame AGW.
Same enviro-wacko theme different details.

dentarthurdent on April 2, 2012 at 10:41 AM

There will be a time when the history of this era is finally written when fracking and climate “science” will be part of the greatest generation of fraud science in history.

itsspideyman on April 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM

There will be a time when the history of this era is finally written when fracking and climate “science” will be part of the greatest generation of fraud science in history.

itsspideyman on April 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM

I assume you mean the fraudulent enviro claims AGAINST fracking – not that fracking itself is a fraud?

dentarthurdent on April 2, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Let’s put on our optimist caps and hope that reality has begun to sink in at the EPA and they will actually begin listening to scientists and industry experts rather than taking all their testimony from Josh Fox and a collection of Hollywood wannabes.

Yeah right, dream on.

woodNfish on April 2, 2012 at 4:12 PM

According to the Wall Street Journal’s report on this story:

“….By year’s end, the EPA is set to release initial results of a study on the impact on water of hydrofracturing, or fracking, which involves using a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to break apart energy-rich rocks…….”

and by “year’s end” I’ll bet they mean right after the election.

Look…… the EPAs recent backtracking is either because, they got caught colluding with local enivor- extremists to fake water test results in Texas, or because they don’t want to give Obama’s opponents any more ammunition for the upcoming election. Once the election is over, the EPA will put their regulation machine back into top gear.

Just my opinion.

JeffVader on April 2, 2012 at 10:46 PM