Pavillion's Contaminated Water Investigation: Rep. Lummis Says EPA is Crying Wolf

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Pavillion's Contaminated Water Investigation: Rep. Lummis Says EPA is Crying Wolf (Photo courtesy Flickr user dirac3000)
Pavillion's Contaminated Water Investigation: Rep. Lummis Says EPA is Crying Wolf (Photo courtesy Flickr user dirac3000)

U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis issued a media release Thursday saying the Environmental Protection Agency mishandled the Pavillion investigation and disagrees with their conclusion that fracking is related to groundwater contamination in the area. But that's just part of the story. Sheridan Media's Chris Foy investigates.

Pavillion, located in Fremont County, is a town of just under 200 residents. North American energy giant Encana Oil & Gas, drills near Pavillion, using the process of hydraulic fracturing. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft report drawing a link between Encana's practice of fracking and pollution in a deep water aquifer below the town of Pavillion.

But recently, the EPA did a turnaround and abandoned the investigation of water contamination in the town, handing it over to the state. In June, the state of Wyoming announced that Encana – the company that drills for natural gas in Pavillion using fracking - made a grant of $1.5 million to the Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation to further fund the Pavillion investigation.

In a June media release, Governor Matt Mead said Wyoming and Encana understand the importance of water in this state and that he was pleased to see their continued commitment to the scientific investigation and to provide interim funding for water to Pavillion's residents while that investigation progresses.

On Wednesday, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittees on Energy and the Environment held a joint hearing examining the EPA's studies on hydraulic fracking. U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis is a member of that committee, and she says the EPA has misled the public about what she calls the possible link between possible groundwater contamination and fracking.

Rep. Lummis says the EPA mishandled the Pavillion investigation and the agency was attempting to frighten people with claims of what is possible from fracking and not what is likely to occur.

But other critics of the EPA, including many environmental groups, say the agency is relinquishing any responsibility to conduct any research that could be interpreted as questioning the safety of the practice of fracking. ProPublica points to a few examples in a recent article. In the past 15 months, the EPA closed an investigation into groundwater pollution in Dimock, Pennsylvania, claiming that the level of contamination was below federal safety triggers.

The Wyoming Legislature and Governor Mead appropriated $750,000 last year for the design, construction and installation of residential cistern systems and a water loading station in Pavillion as an interim drinking water source during the course of the investigation.

Further reading:

A conglomeration of all the EPA's information, study materials, press releases and related comments from the public:

A press release from Encana explaining why they disagree with the EPA's correlation between fracking and contaminated water in Pavillion:

Eye Care of the Big Horns
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