Wyoming Group Calls for Transparency and Independent Oversight of State’s Groundwater Investigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2013

Media Contact:
Richard Garrett,  legislative advocate and energy policy analyst, 307-332-7031 x18; richard@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org

Wyoming Group Disappointed by Delay in Fracking Study; Calls for Transparency and Independent Oversight of State’s Groundwater Investigation

 

Lander, Wyo. — The Wyoming Outdoor Council is calling on the state of Wyoming to exercise maximum transparency, employ the best science available, and retain impartial scientific experts to oversee its investigation into groundwater contamination east of Pavillion.

The group also expressed disappointment that Wyoming citizens will have to wait even longer for the final results of this study.

“The victims in all of this — the affected citizens east of Pavillion — have been seeking answers for years,” said Richard Garrett with the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “It is imperative that this newest study be the best investigation possible.”

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announced on Thursday the state will further investigate potential drinking water contamination from drilling operations in the rural area east of Pavillion, taking the lead from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had been the principal investigator for the last two years.

“Since Encana Oil and Gas — the company that has the most to gain or lose from the results of this study — is providing funding for this investigation and will have a high-level of input, including the ability to recommend third-party experts — it’s going to be crucial that the state involve local landowners and put independent science first, in every phase of this investigation,” said Richard Garrett with the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

“This action will only be meaningful if it results in a scientifically valid investigation that gives the people affected some certainty and the opportunity to evaluate their alternatives for securing clean water,” he said.

The fact that the state finds itself at this point, with a complicated and potentially contentious investigation on its hands, is a clear example of how important it is to test and record groundwater quality prior to oil and gas development, Garrett said.

“It just underscores how important it is to have some certainty about water quality before any drilling takes place. As the governor’s staff has said many times, baseline testing is cheap insurance,” he said.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council is calling on the state to achieve the following in its investigation:

  • Employ the best science available
  • Drill additional test wells if needed
  • Retain impartial scientific experts to oversee the science and its analysis
  • Obtain independent scientific peer-reviewed results
  • Involve local citizens, landowners, and conservation interests
  • Realize complete public transparency
  • Initiate a parallel investigation, led by the Wyoming Department of Health, into potential human health impacts of the water contamination and drilling activities east of Pavillion

 

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4 comments on “Wyoming Group Calls for Transparency and Independent Oversight of State’s Groundwater Investigation
  1. Jason Kosola says:

    I fail to see how Encana funding the investigation or recommending experts is a problem. It says “recommend” not “pick” and the third party contractor gets paid no matter the scientific opinion they give. Who else should pay for this, citizens of Wyoming?

  2. Richard Garrett says:

    Groundwater belongs to everyone and every generation in Wyoming. More than 80% of the state’s population depends on it. It is a crucial and sometimes fragile resource. We are advocating an independent peer-reviewed investigation based on solid science. As you likely know, there was a time when no one in industry or making decisions at the state level was willing pay for a thorough, scientifically sound investigation into or solution for the water contamination east of Pavillion. Recently, Governor Mead and the Wyoming Legislature stepped up to the plate and appropriated about $750,000 in taxpayer money to fund the installation of cisterns to those who wanted them. The governor has promised that cost will be refunded to the state by whoever is determined responsible for the groundwater contamination in rural Pavillion.

  3. Jason Kosola says:

    I don’t get it, in your response you say “there was a time when no on in industry or making decisions at the state level was willing to pay”. Now that the operator IS paying for an investigation, you have a problem with that. I’ll ask again…why is Encana paying for the investigation a problem? If operators in the state do not fund this, then citizens are the only other option. I think you need to have a little more faith in scientific experts. Third party experts, including geologists, risk losing their license, lawsuits, losing all their business, among other things, if they provide a bias to one side or the other. Your article suggests that the source of funding automatically biases a third party, whom is often from out of state, to the operators benefit. I can speak from personal experience, working for an operator and consulting companies, I’ve never met a scientist willing to throw away a career for a few months pay.

  4. Richard Garrett says:

    Good comments (thank you). Perhaps some background will help clarify. In early 2012 the Wyoming Outdoor Council helped fund an analysis – a peer review – by an expert third party to analyze the EPA draft study. His analysis confirmed much of what the EPA, on a preliminary basis, had concluded. We shared the analysis with many stakeholders and discovered that those that were most skeptical of the EPA’s draft study tended to reject his analysis seemingly on the grounds that since the Council paid for it, it likely was biased. That skepticism suggests that a truly independent third party review is crucial to this process in order to insure public confidence. The governor (and legislature and by extension the people of Wyoming) fulfilled a crucial obligation when funding was sought and authorized for the installation of cisterns in rural Pavillion. In doing so, the governor made it clear the state would hold accountable whoever is responsible for the groundwater contamination in rural Pavillion. Our state’s constitution is definitive when it says about water “its control must be in the state, which, in providing for its use, shall equally guard all the various interests involved”. The Wyoming Outdoor Council is confident that the governor will guard all interests. It is our duty as citizens to help him accomplish that. We think it is important to urge (as the governor has promised) “a comprehensive review of all relevant data and (to) initiate an additional science-based investigation”. Ideally, a study would be funded by the state (inasmuch as the EPA turned that duty over to Wyoming) and conducted by independent scientists, geologists, petroleum engineers, etc. If that study having been peer reviewed concluded responsibility then the cost of the study (and remediation) would be borne by the responsible party.

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