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Wednesday, October 01, 2014 / PROGRESSIVE JOURNALISM FOR POSITIVE ACTION
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Obama EPA Shut Down Weatherford, TX Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

Steve Horn
DeSmogBlog / News Analysis
Published: Thursday 17 January 2013
That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.
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The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working for Interralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO. 

This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It's the second study that got him in trouble.

"Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t," The Checks and Balances Project explained. "And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose."

From Smoking Gun to Censorship: Range Resources Link

The Obama EPA's Weatherford, TX study was long-in-the-making, with its orgins actually dating back to a case of water contamination in 2010. The victim: Steve Lipsky. 

"At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane," the AP wrote

AP proceeded to explain that Lipsky had "reported his family's drinking water had begun 'bubbling' like champagne" and that his "well...contains so much methane that the...water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited."

The driller in this case was a corporation notorious for intimidating local communities and governmental officials at all levels of governance: Range Resources. Range, in this case, set up shop for shale gas production in a "wooded area about a mile from Lipsky's home," according to the AP

As DeSmogBlog revealed in November 2011, Range Resources utilizes psychological warfare techniques as part of its overarching public relations strategy.

Due to the grave health concerns associated with the presence of methane and benzene in drinking water, the Obama EPA "ordered Range...to take steps to clean their water wells and provide affected homeowners with safe water," wrote the AP

Range's response? It "threatened not to cooperate" with the Obama EPA's study on fracking's link to water contamination. The non-cooperation lead to the Obama EPA suing Range Resources. 

It was during this phase of the struggle where things got interesting. As the AP explained,

Believing the case was headed for a lengthy legal battle, the Obama EPA asked an independent scientist named Geoffrey Thyne to analyze water samples taken from 32 water wells. In the report obtained by the AP, Thyne concluded from chemical testing that the gas in the drinking water could have originated from Range Resources' nearby drilling operation.

Despite this smoking gun, everything was soon shut down, with the Obama EPA reversing its emergency order, terminating the court battle and censoring Thyne's report. The AP explained that the Obama EPA has "refused to answer questions about the decision."

“I just can't believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn't use it,” Lipsky, who now pays $1,000 a month to have water hauled to his family's house, told the AP.

“Duke Study” Co-Author Confirms Veracity of Thyne's Study 

Robert Jackson, a Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University and co-author of the "Duke Study" linking fracking to groundwater contamination did an independent peer review of Thyne's censored findings. He found that it is probable that the methane in Lipsky's well water likely ended up there thanks to the fracking process. 

Range predictably dismissed Thyne and Jackson as "anti-industry."

Americans Against Fracking: An "Unconscionable" Decision

Americans Against Fracking summed up the situation best in a scathing press release:

It is unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is tasked with safeguarding our nation’s vital natural resources, would fold under pressure to the oil and gas industry...It is again abundantly clear that the deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests, even when mounting scientific evidence shows that drilling and fracking pose a direct threat to vital drinking water supplies.

There's also a tragic human side to this tale. 

“This has been total hell,” Lipsky told the AP. “It's been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life.”



ABOUT Steve Horn

 

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. He is also a freelance investigative journalist whose work has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, The Progressive Magazine, CounterPunch Magazine, TruthOut and others. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveAHorn.

Big oil and gas win again and

Big oil and gas win again and again and again . . . When is this government going to ever represent the people again?

I would guess when we get rid of the corporate lobbyists who continue to feed huge amounts of money to our Congress and to the Presidency. This has to stop! When one has such a close working relationship with corporations and government, we call it fascism. We are now dangerously close to this arrangement now. Congress appears to be only listening to the highest bidder and not to their own constituency's.

I suspect that there are more

I suspect that there are more locations around Dallas and Fort Worth that are also contaminated. It will be interesting to have a MAP of the UNITED STATES with all of these Shale Gas Water Contaminations -- sites listed ...color coded. Their proximity to major metropolitan cities and their supporting suburbs. America's beauty and sustainablity for life being $old or FAST Money. I hope they start fining these Companies 110% and force the CEO & Board of Directors to MOVE into the neighborhoods they affect. How do you sell your home after that and who would want to buy it?

Think of getting contaminated BEEF from TEXAS -- it's a wonder the Cattleman's Association isn't raising concerns. Dead Area for how many years.

I'm going to over generalize

I'm going to over generalize for satire's affect, but hey, don't Texans hate government and "regulation." Come on guys, let business "grow" now. Don't be hypocrites. Just because it pollutes a small town's water doesn't mean it's not good for "growth." Come on now. Let's be consistent.

Some things you may want to consider, using conservative and corporate speak:

(1) Methane hasn't been proven to be dangerous in drinking water.
(2) Methane in the drinking water is natural. Sometimes it gets released through natural causes. There isn't anything we can do about it. We should at least get the resources.
(3) If we can't grow our business, you're going to be losing your jobs.
(4) This type of regulation is socialist!

Sorry, I just don't feel too sorry for you reaping the crow you sow.

Corporatist Obama loves

Corporatist Obama loves helping out his billionaire "savvy businessmen" buddies at the expense of the peons. Wall Street thieves couldn't buy their way into a prison as long as he and Holder are in public office.

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