Congress Wants to Know Why the EPA Keeps Backing Off its Own Fracking Research

Categories: Environment

Thumbnail image for lipskyhose.png
The Environmental Protection Agency has a tendency to walk away from its own research suggesting that fracking pollutes drinking water. A Congressional hearing scheduled for today will look into why that is.

The hearing, called "Lessons Learned: EPA's Investigations of Hydraulic Fracturing," will be held jointly by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee's Subcommittees on Environment and Energy.

Homeowners from Parker County, Texas, the Pavillion area of Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania -- all communities featured in the HBO documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2 -- charge that local fracking operations made their drinking water flammable, but that the EPA has ignored their concerns.

Those communities were also highlighted in a story by investigative news site ProPublica, which found earlier this month that the EPA has regularly run away from any research suggesting that fracking could pose dangers.

"The EPA has walked from many of its findings from previous studies," the committee's spokesman told Unfair Park yesterday.

Yet none of the people who suspect that their drinking water has been contaminated have been invited to the hearing. Environmental group Earthworks is crying foul, saying in a press release that "the hearing will 'learn' its lessons without consulting the fracking-impacted communities EPA was investigating."

So why weren't those homeowners invited?

"The purpose of the hearing is to look at the protocols and procedures with how the EPA is going about its examination of fracking," the spokesman said.

Homeowners excluded from the hearing include Steve Lipsky, the homeowner from Parker County who famously set the water coming out of his hose on fire in Gasland. (Brantley's written about him a bunch).

"No one's ever reached out to us or even told us about" the hearing, Lipsky said yesterday.

In 2010, the EPA publicly blamed the dirty water in Parker Country on Fort Worth-based gas company Range Resources and issued an "emergency order" asking Range Resources to take "immediate action."

Yet two years later, the EPA dropped its investigation into Range Resources.

It's too early to say whether this will be a "the EPA is too nice to the gas industry" kind of hearing or a "the EPA is too hard on the gas industry and thanks to the gas industry for funding my re-election campaign" kind of hearing.

But not really. The Environment Subcommittee Chairman, Republican Representative Chris Stewart from Utah, has done plenty of cheerleading for the oil industry. Last month he accused the EPA of making "baseless attacks on oil and gas production." Meanwhile, Energy Subcommittee Chairman Representative Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, did acknowledge last year that Pavillion had contaminated water but said there was no proof that it came from fracking.

Here's another clue: The spokesman said Gasland 2, which criticizes the federal and local governments' handling of fracking investigations, did not spark this new investigation of the EPA's investigations.

"Gasland had nothing to do with the hearing," he said. "I can't speak for who had seen Gasland or not."


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
27 comments
Willie
Willie

The reason EPA backed off is because their studies were lousy --- pure and simple crap science.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

The views and input of these landowners is not relevant because we aren't looking at the actual problem. Because what we're really doing here is looking at the protocols and procedures of how we are examining the actual problem.

Hoo-boy. I'm a little dizzy after reading that.

IgnatiusJ
IgnatiusJ

Congress:  "Hmmmm, we've been hearing about all this illness, seen water catch on fire, the EPA studies on health risks and environmental damage associated seem pretty legit- MAYBE we should look into it.  Now, Mr. Lobbyist, please pass the Cabernet."

IgnatiusJ
IgnatiusJ

Lamar has been in Congress since 1986.  It is reassuring to know that he, as a proud Republican, has expressed doubt that man contributes to global warming, or that it is a serious problem.

IgnatiusJ
IgnatiusJ

Wonder if Lamar thinks any sickness or cluster of illness associated with fracking has a likely cause, OR, he believes Eddy and the cause of sickness is "mental error".

Wonder what he thinks about water catching on fire? 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Because the research is bad, and they know it.  The people doing the bad, sloppy research are politically connected, so they can't stop them, but they know that if they apply that research, they will get their asses handed to them in court by the oil and gas companies.

So, for a government bureaucrat, the path of least resistance is let them waste the money on useless, corrupt research and then just bury it before it does any actual harm to the agency.

IgnatiusJ
IgnatiusJ

Good to know the subcommittee is headed by the esteemed Rep. Lamar Smith.  As a Christian Scientist, he knows a lot about Science.

doclawson
doclawson

Why does the EPA back off? Maybe because there's no there there! 

Gasland is junk science pure and simple.

It's just amazing how people can lecture ad nauseum about the scientific certainty of global warming (which I accept as well) yet totally reject the established science on the relative safety fracking (or relatedly GMOs).

http://reason.com/archives/2013/07/05/the-top-5-lies-about-fracking

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@brussell8691The water catching on fire is a perfect example.  It was a flat out fraud.  It was called out as a fraud by a federal judge.  The guy hooked his gas line into his water line -- of course when you've ROUTED the gas into the water line, you can start a fire there.

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2012-04-26/news/fire-in-the-hole/full/

- - - - -

A little more than two weeks later, on February 16, 2012, Loftin, who is up for re-election, issued a second, devastating ruling against the Lipskys. Though they could not sue Range in his court, Range could countersue the Lipskys. Range argued that Lipsky and Rich were participants in a civil conspiracy to sully Range's name by making false statements to the media and providing a "misleading" video of a flaming hose to the EPA. It was all a hoax, the company said.

Loftin concluded that a jury might agree. "This demonstration was not done for scientific study but to provide local and national news media with a deceptive video, calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning," Loftin wrote. Lipsky, he reasoned, could not set his water on fire, as he so often claimed. The judge believed Lipsky attached the green garden hose to the gas vent to intentionally "alarm the EPA."

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@doclawson

reading thru your linked article, and there seems to be a few contradictions...

"Falsehood 1: You can light your tap water on fire" this is not a "falsehood", as there is little doubt that the tap water WAS on fire to anybody who watches. In fact the CO report states there is natural gas in the water. the dispute is how the gas came to be in the water (see faulty casings and sealing mentioned below), not the fact that there is or is not gas in the water. So yes, "You can light your tap water on fire" and it is NOT a "falsehood".

Falsehood 2: Fracking fluid "could seep into groundwater and poison drinking water." The report then goes on the mention the Duke study that concluded "the two simplest explanations for the higher levels of dissolved gas were faulty steel casings and improper cement sealing of the wells". well, where did the wells come from? Yes, from the fracking! NOT a falsehood.

Also interesting to note the defense of Falsehood 3: Fracking increases air pollution can be summed up as "Hey, fracking does increase air pollution, but fracking doesn't pollute as much as some other industies". Quite a defense there, let me tell you!

schermbeck
schermbeck

@doclawson That website's information is way out of date and very selective. It doesn't address the fact that fracking increases ozone pollution, you know, smog. Rural areas in Wy and Colo are now worse than LA because of fracking air pollution, not to mention DFW and now San Antonio, thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale. BTW, that last assessment is from that radical environmental group known as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It also doesn't address any of the peer-reviewed, journal-published epidemiological studies done in the real world around fracking sites, for example, by the likes of the Colo. School of public health (cancer risks go up 66% within a 1/2 mile of a well pad). It doesn't even mention the increase in susceptibility of earthquakes, now solidly established as a fact by the USGS. It also doesn't talk about higher than allowed levels of Silica pollution on the well site.....The problem with articles like this is that they aren't written by people following the research. They're written by industry flunkies with an money-driven agenda. On the other hand, why would Joe and Josephina Six-Pack so vigorously complain about the effects of fracking in a state like Texas? There's no money in it. They can't sue here, so what's in it for them? Maybe, just maybe they're telling the truth. 

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@everlastingphelps

Here's the next two paragraphs from where you stopped:

"His order disregarded the photo filed in evidence of a well service tech flaring both gas and water from Lipsky's well.

Even Range's own expert, petroleum engineer McBeath, said in his testimony that the water well company had attached the hose to burn the gas off further from the wellhead. The purpose was to avoid an accidental fire, not to conspire against Range. After all, the EPA hadn't based its order on a video. The agency's investigators had seen it all for themselves."

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@everlastingphelps

I see that the judge believed and reasoned he did that, but aside from that I see no proof.  What about the other witnesses?  Wasn't the whole point of that article was the judge was in bed with the gas company?  

Your proof of fraud is one judge's ruling?  What about the multiple landowners who have duplicated the experiment?  Are they in on the conspiracy too?

These are sincere questions

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@mavdog Sorry.  Wrong on #1.  Fracking happens at the natural gas deposits.  The "lit on fire" hose was methane, not natural gas (which is why they could smell it -- natural gas is oderless without additives).  In addition, it was coming out of the gas bleed, where it is supposed to come out, not the water outlet.  They connected the hose to the bleed to light it.  That's about as valid as me piping my propane tank into my water main and then "lighting my tap water on fire". 

Willie
Willie

@schermbeck  Nice screed.  Maybe, just maybe, Joe and Josephina believe all the Gasland nonsense.  And the earthquakes are due to the operations of saltwater disposal wells, not fracking.  

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@mavdog

yea there seems to be conflicting accounts coming from the article vs. the deposition admission

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @CornyDoggy 

the gas was found being emitted from the wellhead. there was gas found in the water well, the question is how it came to be there.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@CornyDoggy@everlastingphelps

Ok I'm thoroughly confused now

Here's how it went down.   Lipsky (home owner) got methane in his well.  Shit happens.  Well company said, "yup, you've got methane.  We'll hook this hose up to vent the gas a little more safely until you can do something else for water" and recommend Wolf Eagle.  At some point the plan is hatched to blame Range (oil company).

Wolf ends up helping them try to pin it on Range.  When Range finds out what is actually happening, they put Wolf on the hot seat, and Wolf spills the beans on the scheme.

That's really the long and short of it.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@CornyDoggy@everlastingphelps What about the multiple landowners who have duplicated the experiment? 

"Experiment"?  Hardly.  If you hook up a hose to the GAS vent, you get GAS out of it.  If the gas is methane, it burns.  The end.  It's not an experiment when the device is doing what it's designed to do.

As for speculation, here's what I think the real deal is. Methane got into the aquifer.  It happens.  It's bad luck.  It's bad news for the property owner.  He needed someone to blame, so he wouldn't have to foot the bill.  Range was around, Range got blamed.  When he couldn't get any traction, he faked up the video (fake in that he represented it as being his water supply, not his gas vent) and used it to pressure the EPA to go after them.

Instead, he bought a defamation suit, because malice in that situation is a pretty easy argument.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...