Dangerously Explosive Quantities of Gas Found in Parker County Water at Center of Fracking Controversy

Categories: News

lipsky.jpg
Monica Fuentes
As we reported last summer, the Texas Railroad Commission has agreed to take another look at a case of potential water contamination due to fracking in Parker County. It has been nearly three years since the agency, notoriously chummy with the oil and gas companies it is supposed to regulate, exonerated Range Resources.

But ongoing testing proves the regulator has good reason for giving the case a second look: The wells are loaded with natural gas in increasingly explosive quantities, and gas fingerprinting has sourced it to the Barnett Shale -- the productive zone thousands of feet below the surface that Range fracked.

"The leak continues and it's spreading," Geoffrey Thyne, an independent scientist who was commissioned to work the case with EPA, tells The Associated Press. "I can say, based on the current data, there are at least two other wells that show the same source ... which is the Range well."

Range has always contended that the gas is naturally occurring, originating in shallow, gas-bearing rock called the Strawn formation. But by comparing Strawn gas and Barnett gas with the gas found in several homeowners' water wells, Thyne has concluded that it isn't just bubbling up. This gas came from the Barnett, and its only conduit would be Range.

Rob Jackson, a Duke University researcher, is working on a big study on Parker County for the National Science Foundation. His testing has identified concentrations of gas in the well water at up to 10 times the federal threshold.

It's a fascinating, complicated saga (you can read about it in this 2012 cover story) about the intersection between the state's biggest industry, the politicians who serve it, and the folks who live in the gas patch. But it began when Steve Lipsky's water well stopped working. He reported it to the Railroad Commission and, ultimately, to the EPA. Convinced Lipsky and his family were in danger and that the commission had no intention of acting quickly, the EPA issued a rare emergency order, compelling Range to stop the contamination, conduct testing and to supply water.

For reasons that remain murky, EPA dropped its lawsuit against Range, prompting Republican legislators to latch onto the incident as yet another example of its over-reaching, business-hating ethos. The agency's actions have since been cleared by the Inspector General.

As it happens, Duke's Jackson says the agency's withdrawal from the case may have been a bit premature. Lipsky would probably agree, since he's facing a huge defamation lawsuit file against him by Range.

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33 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Fracking CAN contaminate ground water. Given a weak casing at any point, the pressures of fracking can push the chemicals thru, creating apath for the resultant gas flow to get to water table.

Anyone want to speculate on the odds that a driller in a hurry cuts some corners, and this happens? Remember BP Macondo?

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

Whoever thinks it's a good idea to pump contaminants into the same ground that contains our drinking water is not thinking clearly, period. This sort of thinking reminds one of the Spindletop days -- you know, the good ole days, when wildcatters could just leave standing pools of crude on the ground near their wells.
Can we jump wholeheartedly into the renewables, already?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

It's not "potential water contamination" - the contamination is confirmed.

Nobody disputes that.

ejpaddler
ejpaddler

All that profit will soon go up in smoke when they start paying lawyers and the fees and restitution to the landowners, and all the people of Texas for destroying the aquifer. They can't continue to deny know research that shows that fracking is a cause of earthquakes. All the responsibility will shake out and as deep as the Oil and Gas pocket books are, they will be paying for this for years to come. 

schermbeck
schermbeck

The regional office of EPA should be ashamed and get on the case. Your orders to not make headlines on this subject have been superseded.

ruddski
ruddski

Parker County, epicenter of the Texas Geothermal boom. Take that, Iceland.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I suppose I have to give these gas companies credit, they are sure as shit getting their money's worth out of their attorneys. Earthquakes? Combustible water? Never mind that none of this happened before the wells, it's all circumstantial right now. Drill baby drill, right?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ejpaddler

I'd love to think you're right, but as always, the profits of these endeavors will be privatized among a few beneficiaries while the yet unrealized costs, both monetary and environmental will be socialized and paid for by all.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@P1Gunter

It's not so much the attorneys on their payroll that they have to thank.  Thanks are due to the Republican judges and politicians.


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

none of those links state it is impossible for drilling to contaminate the water.

more important, the story is about the tests that show a direct link to the Range drilling:

A consultant hired by the EPA as part of its initial investigation in 2010 concluded that the gas was chemically identical to that being extracted by Range. The consultant, Geoffrey Thyne, analyzed the isotopes of the gas in Lipsky’s wells and the gas from Range’s production wells, and found them to be a match.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-10/epa-s-reliance-on-driller-data-for-water-irks-homeowners.html

it is noteworthy that the TX RRC isn't working to answer the question of if the Range site is responsible for the gas in the water, the TX RRC is working to protect Range from efforts to investigate of it could be responsible for the gas detected in the water.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@everlastingphelps@bvckvs

I didn't bother to follow any of your spammy little links.

If you think you have a case that proves that flammable water is NOT contaminated - make it to someone else.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@dingo @A-nony-mouse 

Please describe for us all the scenario where fracking is accomplished without drilling the problematic access wells or disposal wells.

dingo
dingo

@A-nony-mouse 

It makes a big difference to those that will ignore the truth to order get their anti-fracking propaganda heard.


There is a middle ground. Pay the landowners if they were harmed, but don't blame this tired, drawn out episode on fracking.

A-nony-mouse
A-nony-mouse

So the argument being made here is that Range didn't contaminate the water with fracking, but they did contaminate the water with drilling? Seems like that is a distinction without a difference. The result is still contaminated groundwater due to one of Ranges wells.

dingo
dingo

@canoemantx@everlastingphelps@mavdog  

"And, he refuses to acknowledge what the oil and gas industry itself acknowledges - that "fracking" refers to the entire process from spudding through completion."

Fracking is fracturing rocks by way of high pressure injection. Spudding-in is what you do to get drilling started regardless of whether or not you frack or not. I was in the field for several years and that's how we 'referred' to things. It seems you are bludgeoning the semantics in order to cloud Phelp's point.


Phelps obvious point is that the methane leaks are most likely attributable to bad casing (a point concurred by Duke's Rob Jackson, the expert mentioned in the article). Bad casing occurs in wells that are fracked and in those that are not fracked.

Get the drillers to be presumptively liable for methane leaks near their wells and the casing problems will diminish (like the law passed in PA).


Rob Jackson also has stated several times that he has found no evidence of contamination by fracking specific related chemicals, radiation, wastewater elements, etc. in the wells/sites that he has tested.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sq0LFhw-klM

 



canoemantx
canoemantx

@everlastingphelps@mavdog 

As usual, everything everlastingphelps says is a lie based upon his dogmatic belief in the Joseph Goebbels philosophy of the Big Lie - tell a lie often enough and loudly enough and it will take on the personification of truth - but it will still be a lie.

He is wrong about the court of jurisdiction. He failes to acknowledge that the judge was discredited and removed from office by the voters, or that the judge has a personal bias in favor of the oil and gas industry because he has a personal conflict of interest. And, he refuses to acknowledge what the oil and gas industry itself acknowledges - that "fracking" refers to the entire process from spudding through completion.


He is an obvious stooge of the industry whose job is to tell lies and deny the truth, but everybody sees through him. Steve Lipsky is going to eat Range's lunch, and I expect Range will go bankrupt, along with Chesapeake, this year. Both are in deep financial trouble.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @mavdog 

Great, I think that you've proved your point.

Just be sure to let us know when they are able to frack and dispose of all of their waste water / chemicals without that whole pesky "drilling" part.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@mavdog@everlastingphelpsThey all say exactly that.  No one has said it is impossible for drilling to contaminate water.  What has been said is exactly what is in the story (which bvckvs clipped out because he is a lying liar who lies while he is lying):

"potential water contamination due to fracking"


Fracking doesn't contaminate water tables.  Period. Drilling can contaminate water supplies the same ways that it could for the last 100 years (mainly through bad collars and jackets).  Fracking is the issue here, and there has been absolutely no mechanism ever described that can credibly lead to fracking contaminating the water supply.  None.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@dingo

the ruling you cite is simply stated as this: because the TX RRC says that Range is not to blame, Lipsky did in fact defame Range by continuing to claim Range is at fault.

gee, THAT is an amazing circle of logic, as the TX RRC did not allow for evidence to be heard by the Duke research team noted above, and if anyone believes the TX RRC is an independent governmental group whose goal is to protect the public, as opposed to protect the oil and gas industry, they are grossly mistaken.

the phrase "miscarriage of justice" is appropriate.

dingo
dingo

@brantley.hargrove1@everlastingphelps  

The subsequent unanimous ruling of the three state appeals court judges that allowed the defamation claims to proceed against Lipsky is also pretty interesting:

'Range also contended that the evidence showed that the Lipskys acted with actual malice because, among other reasons, they blamed Range before and after the Railroad Commission had concluded its investigation and had found that Range had not contaminated the Lipskys' well; Steven Lipsky failed to disclose, when blaming Range, that the Railroad Commission had ruled in Range's favor; Steven Lipsky stated under oath in January 2011 that he did not know the cause of the contamination but made statements at other times blaming Range (including, prior to January 2011, implying that Range would be liable for contaminating his well); and Steven Lipsky said that he could light his water on fire when he knew that the hose was attached to the well's gas vent.

We conclude that the trial court did not clearly abuse its discretion by determining that Range had presented clear and specific evidence to establish a prima facie case for each essential element of its defamation and business disparagement claims against Steven Lipsky;'

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/tx-court-of-appeals/1628741.html

brantley.hargrove1
brantley.hargrove1

@everlastingphelps @brantley.hargrove1  That's a state court, not a federal one, and the judge recused himself from the case because his problematic statements on the campaign trail -- almost certainly in violation of the code of judicial conduct -- were so blatant that it was evident he could not sit as an impartial jurist. And, like mavdog says, he lost his seat shortly thereafter. Apart from all of this, the idea that the ruling of an elected state judge is incontestable truth is pretty  interesting.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

you did do the "legwork" to discover the Judge who issued this opinion was voted out of office, was forced to recuse himself from further involvement in the suit, and was proven to be in error with his opinion as the garden hose was attached to a gas vent from the water well?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@brantley.hargrove1@everlastingphelpsLet us stick to the facts.  It is a fraud, as was concluded in federal court:

http://tinyurl.com/m4houta

Once it has been decided in court, that's generally considered the truth.  That's how it works.


"The Court references with concern the actions of Mr. Steven Lipsky, under the advice or direction of Ms. Alisa Rich, to intentionally attach a garden hose to a gas vent -- not to a water line -— and then light and burn the gas from the end nozzle of the hose. This demonstration was not done for scientific study but to provide local and national news media a deceptive video, calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning"

(My emphasis)

If you didn't already know that, you probably need to go and do a lot more legwork before you continue to report this badly on the subject.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@brantley.hargrove1@everlastingphelps

re:  "We can all reasonably disagree..."

Man, did you ever get that wrong.  Ask most anyone in the country and they'll tell you - there's nothing "reasonable" about the way Texas Republicans behave.  That's true not just for the quaeda (base) but for the various lunatic fringes as well..


bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@everlastingphelps

You know it wasn't a fraud.  You're just repeating the Republican party line.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

There is no "flammable water". That was a fraud.

ruddski
ruddski

The customary ignorant post, but not a mention of those evangelical republicans who haunt you. Wassup with that, Tiger?

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