Guest post by Wes Wilson and Phil Doe
Part 1: Dollis Wright is an industry insider
By Wes Wilson*
On Wednesday, January 7, the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force posted the Agenda for the January 15-16 meeting in Greeley. Four panel members will speak on Human Health and Public Safety from 2:30-4:00 p.m. on January 15.
- Dr. Larry Wolk of CDPHE
- Dr. John Adgate of CSPH
- Dr. Gabby Petron of NOAA
- Ms. Dollis Wright, CEO of the consulting firm Quality Environmental Professional Associates based in Thornton.
Ms. Wright lists her profession as a toxicologist. She co-authored 4 papers in 1992, on laboratory rat methodologies. Wright has not published any peer-reviewed work on the oil and gas industry, nor any other publications since these 4 she co-authored in 1992.
Wright’s academic experience as listed at the end of a rebuttal statement from Anadarko, Noble, and Encana:
- Indiana University, Coursework towards masters in Toxicology
- Univ. of Cincinnati, Graduate course in Biochemistry & Physiology
- Georgia State Univ, Bachelors of Science in Biology Minor in Chemistry
- Andrews Univ, Coursework towards BS in Medical Technology
It is odd that any professional list “course work towards a degree” as a qualification.
We’ve seen Wright’s industry spiel before at the 2013 committee hearing for Joanne Ginal’s health study bill. In her testimony, Wright spoke against it based on vague statements such as providing the public with reality not perceptions, and suggested that Ginal’s bill include: “An analysis of the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry on health.”
Phil Doe from Be the Change commented: “Having Dollis Wright on the health panel is a stinging insult to our intelligence. I have seen her testify several times, the first at a hearing of Joann Ginal’s health bill. She testified against it. She is in the pay of the industry, quite simply.”
Last year when the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) opposed the COGCC proposed air toxic emission reduction rules, COGA trotted out Wright with a statement alleging that intention of Dr. Colborn’s science “was to stoke public fear” which would be rebutted by Wright.
COGA claims scientific work done in Colorado was undertaken to create public fear: “Some of these public concerns arise for the well-publicized efforts of groups such as the The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange and NRDC to stoke public fear about alleged exposure to toxic or hazardous materials related to oil and gas operations. COGA will rebut these undocumented allegations.”
However Wright’s criticisms of Dr. Colborn’s study on endocrine disruptor toxins in the ambient air near an oil and gas operation goes further back than that. After the TEDX study was released, Wright dismissed the risks of chemical exposure to humans:
… However, a public-health consultant from Denver said Colborn is overstating the dangers.
Dollis Wright with Quality Environmental Professional Associates criticized the TEDX study because it listed the chemicals that could be used by the industry, but it didn’t have enough information to say how — or if — they could actually poison people.
“It needs to be very clear that just because a chemical is in your environment doesn’t mean it’s going to make you sick. It’s got to get into your body,” Wright said …
… Wright did a health study of four Colorado gas basins for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which represents many energy companies. She ruled out the possibility that residents who live near wells would inject gas and oil chemicals or absorb them through their skin, leaving water and air as possible routes of poisoning.
The study included groundwater samples within half a mile of several well sites.
“The data that I looked at, there was no groundwater data that showed there could be a problem,” Wright said.
And the air samples she studied showed no contamination traveling downwind in harmful amounts …
A year ago when the McKenzie/Adgate study was published showing 30% increase in birth defects for Colorado births within 10 miles of oil and gas wells, COGA called on Dollis Wright to respond:
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association forwarded a request for comment to Dollis Wright, head of an environmental communication company in Colorado.
“They didn’t address things like prenatal care, socioeconomic status and access to health care, which can make all the difference in the world when you look at birth defects,” Wright said.
However, the researchers did take into account the mothers’ education, smoking, age, ethnicity, smoking and alcohol use.
Furthermore, Wright responded to a June 2014 Denver Post article on health impacts and boldly proclaimed that despite the existing scientific data:
No studies have shown “adverse impact during normal operations,” said Dollis Wright, a toxicologist and consultant for COGA.
Dollis Wright has a financial conflict of interest as an employee of the oil and gas industry; and she is certainly not a qualified medical or scientific expert.
Part 2: XTO’s Randy Cleveland hand-picked Dollis Wright for the health panel
By Phil Doe**
Dollis Wright is the pick of Task Force co-chair, Randy Cleveland, President of XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobile, and a company that was fined $2.3 million by EPA in December for illegal dumping in West Virginia. The cleanup price tag is another estimated $3 million.
Several years ago, the company also was one of the illegal dumpers into the Susquehanna, for which they were fined $100K. This illegal dumping, particularly of radioactive nuclides, received considerable coverage in The New York Times, as reported by Ian Urbina back in 2011. His broad and aggressive reporting may have cost him his beat as I asserted in a series of emails with the public editor.
As you can see from the NPR story below, Cleveland’s company, XTO, is also one of the worst polluters in Pennsylvania, with 177 violations, and $227,000 in fines. And remember this in no way represents the actual level of pollution. In Pennsylvania, as in Colorado, operators are on an honor system — except when they get caught. That Cleveland was selected by Governor Hickenlooper to co-chair a commission that would recommend public health policy for the people of this state is low comedy, a travesty. At a minimum Cleveland should resign, and Hickenlooper should offer a public apology and a promise to sin no more.
The Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Department of Justice, have fined XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobile, $2.3 million for violating the Clean Water Act. The damage to streams and wetlands took place in West Virginia and includes an estimated $3 million remediation price tag. During drilling operations at eight separate sites, the company dumped sand, dirt, rocks and other material into streams and wetlands while constructing well pads, roads, and pits.
“American communities expect EPA and our state partners to make sure energy development is done responsibly,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case will help to protect clean water in West Virginia, and support a level playing field for energy developers that play by the rules.”
This isn’t the first time the EPA has sanctioned XTO. In July 2013 the EPA fined XTO $100,000 for dumping frack water into the Susquehanna river system in Penn Township, Lycoming County. Between 6,300 and 57,373 gallons of waste water contained high levels of strontium, chloride, bromide, barium, and total dissolved solids and flowed continually for more than two months in the fall of 2010, according to the EPA.
XTO is one of the top violators in Pennsylvania, with the most recent data showing 177 violations for a total of $227,199 in fines. The company also faces criminal charges stemming from the Penn Township incident.
*Wes Wilson, retired EPA whistleblower, is an environmental engineer and Vietnam veteran who was featured in Gasland and Split Estate. Wilson worked 35 years for the EPA. He holds a B.S. in geological engineering and an M.S. in water resources, both from the University of Arizona. In October 2004, Wes filed a statement seeking whistle-blower status from Congress after he wrote an 18-page report challenging the accuracy of an EPA study that had concluded there was no evidence that hydraulic fracturing posed a threat to drinking water. That study, he claimed, did not use established agency standards and relied on a peer review panel dominated by energy industry personnel. Currently Wes works with Phil Doe with “Be the Change” and is often a featured speaker at educational events and rallies concerning the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
**Phil Doe, Be The Change, has been fighting for Colorado’s water for most of his adult life. He served as Bureau Chief and Environmental Compliance Officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in the Department of Interior and was featured as a whistleblower on 60 Minutes. A former professor of English literature, he has published op-ed features in Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, Colorado Central Magazine, and Counterpunch. His past grassroots efforts opposed the Animas-La Plata water project in southwest Colorado. He is a registered citizen lobbyist at the State Capitol and testifies at the federal and state legislative level on natural resource issues. He serves on the board of the grassroots group, Be the Change, and directs their environmental issues program, with a current focus on horizontal hydrofracking.