Citizens confront EPA over fracking water pollution

October 28, 2015

Earthworks, EPA, oil and gas drilling

Steven Lipsky stands next to his water well in Weatherford, Texas, in 2013 [Photo by Julie Dermansky]

Steve Lipsky stands next to his water well in Weatherford, Texas, in 2013 [Photo by Julie Dermansky]

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

Fracking-Harmed Residents Travel to Washington, DC, to Call On EPA to Stop Ignoring Its Own Science on Water Pollution

Advocates call on EPA to correct its finding of “No evidence of widespread, systemic pollution”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today residents from communities across the country with fracking contaminated drinking water joined with advocates at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board public meetings to demand that EPA stop ignoring its own evidence of fracking water pollution, and correct the faulty declaration that the agency did “not find evidence that [fracking has] led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources”.

Residents from three communities affected by fracking – Dimock, PA, Pavillion, WY, and Parker County, TX – spoke out about their landmark EPA investigations being excluded from the agency’s long-term study of hydraulic fracking on drinking water resources. Advocates highlighted the limited industry controlled data in the study and the many instances of water contamination found within the study.

In these residents’ communities, the EPA launched investigations into drinking water contamination and drilling and fracking, but then abandoned the investigations for various reasons, despite preliminary findings that drilling and fracking contaminated water. For years, residents of the communities and advocates have called on the EPA to reopen these key investigations.

“In 2007, my water was tested by Cabot Oil & Gas and was found to be clean and safe to drink before Pennsylvania allowed fracking to come to Dimock,” said Ray Kemble, affected landowner and former gas industry worker. “In 2008, gas drilling caused my water to become poisoned. The Pennsylvania DEP and the EPA confirmed this contamination, but abandoned us in 2012 and did not even include us in their long-term study. I am here today to demand that EPA recognize us, include our case in this study, and reopen the investigation.”

“We petitioned EPA to investigate Pavillion after the state of Wyoming refused, and just as EPA was finalizing its findings that fracking had polluted our water, Wyoming asked to take over the investigation,” said John Fenton, rancher and affected landowner in Pavillion, Wyoming. “EPA allowed it, and the investigation stalled. When EPA launched its national study of fracking’s drinking water impacts, we thought they’d look first here in Pavillion where they’d already found pollution. But instead they ignored us without explanation. Science means taking the facts as they are. But EPA seems to be intent on finding the facts to support the conclusion they’ve already reached – ‘fracking is safe’.”

“EPA knows my drinking water is polluted by fracking,” said Steve Lipsky, affected landowner in Weatherford, Texas. “That’s why they ordered Range Resources to supply me with clean water. Yet EPA omitted my case from their national drinking water study. Is that science? Instead, EPA returned jurisdiction over my case back to Texas regulators who quickly declared my water ‘safe.’ I’m taking Texas at their word and starting to use my drinking water well again, even though EPA knows it’s dangerous. Will EPA allow my house to explode? Whose side is EPA on?”

Throughout its long-term assessment, the EPA is clear that “data limitations and uncertainties” prevented researchers from making definitive conclusions about the impacts on drinking water resources from drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and natural gas. Despite this, the EPA study established numerous harms to drinking water resources from fracking. For example, the EPA found evidence of over 36,000 spills during a period of six years and four months, from January 2006 to April 2012. This amounts to about 15 spills every day somewhere in the United States.

“We’re here today to make sure that the people on the front lines, who have to deal with their water being poisoned, have their voices heard and that the EPA sees how pandering to industry pressure is causing American people to suffer,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch. “Sadly, the EPA has been unresponsive and is failing to uphold its own basic mission to protect human health and the environment – air, water, and land. It’s time for the agency to serve the people, not the oil and gas industry.”

“EPA’s ‘see no evil’ approach to fracking water pollution is the opposite of sound science, as EPA staff have unflinchingly uncovered many examples of systemic and widespread pollution: in Pavillion, in Dimock, in Weatherford, and hundreds of cases in this drinking water study,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director of Earthworks. “But when push comes to shove, EPA headquarters always squashes the investigation, or minimizes the findings. We thought the Obama administration was against the politicization of science. But when it comes to fracking, they’re not.”

“We have tried for years now to get the EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to meet with impacted residents across the country to hear their stories and to come up with ways that the agency can help those being harmed,” said Craig Stevens, 6th generation landowner and member of Pennsylvania Patriots from the Marcellus Shale. “This has still not happened and we deserve better.”

“While the EPA spent years conducting this study only to claim in their press releases that water contamination from fracking ‘is not widespread or systemic,’ I have been receiving calls on a regular basis from people across the state of Pennsylvania whose water and air has been polluted by this industry and who are paying the price with their health,” said Ron Gulla, an impacted resident from southwestern Pennsylvania. “I have been trying to help people who are being poisoned by this industry for years, while our federal agencies who are tasked with protecting these people has failed them.”

“EPA has not considered the facts about the effects fracking is currently having on the environment and water supplies,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “A combination of inadequate data, faulty logic and a head-in-the sand approach to fracking’s true impacts has resulted in EPA’s failure to produce a reliable assessment. We call on EPA to withdraw its conclusion and this draft and start over, committing itself to reopening the case studies they never completed and conducting a comprehensive examination that will uncover the truth.”

In 2013, the coalition Americans Against Fracking and the Stop the Frack Attack network delivered 250,000 petitions to EPA asking that the agency reopen investigations from those three negatively impacted communities and provide the residents with safe drinking water. EPA staff met with the families once, but Administrator Gina McCarthy and her staff have refused to meet or respond to these families since then.

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Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.

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