Wyoming Residents Frustrated With State's Fracking-Funded Water Contamination Investigation
Wyoming environmental officials continue investigating water wells and whether fracking is the source of water contamination in the tiny town of Pavillion, but some groups in the area are concerned about the credibility of that investigation.
That's because it's being funded by Encana, the oil and gas firm those groups believe is responsible for adding methane, hydrocarbons, lead and copper into the local water supply. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency handed the investigation over to the state a year ago, and things have been downhill ever since, according to groups like Earthworks and Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens.
State regulators held a meeting late last week that was meant to provide an update to residents. Instead, it reinforced their lack of confidence in the process.
“This meeting didn’t provide us anything except more questions,” John Fenton, an impacted rancher and president of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, said in an Earthworks statement. "The EPA study was ready for peer review when Wyoming took over. The state’s closed door process, funded by Encana, doesn’t inspire confidence.”
Encana provided a $1.5-million grant to the Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation to be used for the investigation, Jeff Wojahn, president of the company said a year ago. Now, the state says it will allow Encana to provide feedback on data regarding wellbore integrity, surface pits, domestic water wells and a project to install cisterns project before the public views that data, County10.com reported.
In response to the website's report, Gov. Matt Mead’s communication director, Renny MacKay, said Encana cannot edit findings after an independent expert review, but can suggest corrections regarding mistakes, particularly if a mistake pertains to one of the company's wells.
“EPA has the same opportunity, if a mistake is found, they can suggest a correction, it then goes back for further review before it is finalized,” MacKay said.
Still, some residents don't have faith in the independence of that review because of Encana's funding. Encana also said last year that it would be providing interim funding to the Wyoming Association of Rural Water System (WARS), which had been providing water for some of the area's residents. Back in 2011, Miles Edwards, a WARS water specialist argued that energy development didn't "have to create and wreak havoc, but can be done in such a way that it benefits the community," according to the Torrington Telegram.
Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel called on the EPA to reopen an investigation separate of the state.
“Frankly, the industry has long tried to block independent investigations from documenting contamination, and Encana’s ability to review these studies before they go public continues this pattern,” Baizel said. “The EPA should never have given in to this outside pressure. EPA should reopen its investigation into Pavillion-area fracking groundwater pollution.”
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.