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Groups Urge EPA to Resume Legal Action in Fracking Water Contamination Case

Energy
Groups Urge EPA to Resume Legal Action in Fracking Water Contamination Case

Earthworks

Conservation and citizen groups from Texas and around the country today sent a letter calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry to resume legal action against Range Resources for polluting the drinking water of homeowners near its operations in Weatherford, Texas.

The letter also calls upon the EPA to require the company to immediately supply clean drinking water to homeowners whose wells were polluted during the company’s drilling, to publicly post all existing tests related to the matter and to resume testing to ensure that Range Resources acts to remedy the situation.

In 2010, EPA invoked its rarely used emergency authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act, to require Range to provide drinking water to two families, install meters in their homes to measure for explosion risks and perform other actions. 

Watch this video showing how fracking turns a garden hose to a flamethrower in Parker County, Texas:

When EPA dropped its case last year, the drilling industry and others characterized the decision as proof that the agency had acted without scientific integrity and that Range had not polluted the families’ water. EPA did not explain its decision, which included withdrawal of the requirement that Range provide the families with drinking water.

Yet, as the Associated Press reported last month, EPA commissioned a report by an independent scientist in 2011 that strongly suggests that one of Range’s natural gas wells was the source of the water contamination. And Tuesday, EnergyWire reported that, on Range Resources’ behalf, former Pennsylvania Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell had pressured EPA to withdraw its action, which the agency did, despite pleas from regional staff.

“Based on strong scientific evidence, multiple EPA staff called for immediate action to protect homeowners from Range Resources drilling pollution,” said Earthworks’ Energy Director Bruce Baizel. “To discover that EPA retreated from protecting the health and safety of homeowners because of political lobbying calls into question all public oversight of oil and gas development. If the federal government can’t withstand political pressure from the oil and gas industry, how can we expect state and local officials to do the job?”

“EPA told me Range Resources polluted our well with their drilling,” said Steven Lipsky, one of the affected landowners. “I was shocked when they withdrew. That’s the kind of behavior I expect from the Texas Railroad Commission, not the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

"If industry is so powerful that it can dictate to the EPA, then who is left to protect the people?," asked Alyssa Burgin of the Texas Drought Project. She continued, "The protection of our water supply should be at the fore of the agency's responsibilities, without outside influence, industry interference or regulatory capture."

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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