EPA stands by ‘fracking’ study but calls reach limited

From his submitted testimony:

Representatives from the State of Wyoming and Encana have criticized EPA’s draft report, stating, for example, that we did not follow standard Agency sampling and analysis protocols, and that the quality of our data was compromised due to extended sample holding times. EPA did, in fact, follow accepted protocols. The investigation was subjected to the Agency’s highest level [quality assurance] procedures. Audits of data quality and technical systems in the laboratory and field were conducted by an independent contractor and EPA QA manager. Where sample holding times were exceeded, EPA protocols were followed and professional judgment was used to determine the appropriate use of the data.

Encana Corp., the operator of the Pavillion gas field, and gas industry trade groups have called EPA's draft report, which the agency is subjecting to peer review, sloppy and inaccurate.

The report is shaking up the political debate over fracking because the conclusions, if upheld, would dent industry claims that the method isn’t polluting groundwater as gas production booms.

Martin notes that EPA’s draft report found that sampling from deep monitoring wells “indicates detection of benzene, methane, and synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids.”

But Martin’s statement warns against comparing the Pavillion field to fracking in other regions:

I draw your attention to the careful language with which our conclusions are couched. We make clear that the causal link to hydraulic fracturing has not been demonstrated conclusively, and that our analysis is limited to the particular geologic conditions in the Pavillion gas field and should not be assumed to apply to fracturing in other geologic settings. It should be noted that fracturing in Pavillion is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells – production conditions different from those in many other areas of the country.

Fracking involves high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand into rock formations, which opens cracks that enable trapped gas to flow.

Thomas Doll, the oil-and-gas supervisor for the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, blasted EPA’s report in his testimony Wednesday.

“The Pavillion Draft Report was issued with incomplete data and technically inadequate conclusions,” he said. Doll said the report is contaminating debate about natural-gas development.

“Based on a limited sampling and an inconclusive data set from Pavillion Wyoming ground water, EPA’s conclusion is now national and international fodder for the hydraulic fracturing debate. Now the quality of the hydraulic fracturing debate suffers and the EPA’s science itself is questioned,” his testimony states.

All the hearing testimony is available here.