RRC Calls EPA Investigation into Contaminated Well Premature

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) has called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) issuance of an Endangerment Order for a water well in Parker County, Texas found to contain natural gas “premature” and “grandstanding” in a move to inject federal government into Texas business.

The RRC began its investigation on Aug. 6, 2010 after receiving the initial complaint and is still actively investigating the complaint, which involves gas found in a 200-foot deep domestic water well in Parker County. RRC said it has shared data cooperatively with EPA staff, and that Range Resources, the operator of two nearby gas wells, also continues to cooperate with Commission staff as part of this investigation.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Range agreed to take additional actions including further testing of its well. Range also will perform soil gas surveys that may lead to additional environmental investigation activities, monitor gas concentrations, and offer a water supply to the residence.

If the data indicates oil field activities are responsible for the gas found in the water well, the RRC said it will require assessment, cleanup, and evaluate what fines or penalties may be assessed as necessary.

Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones said, “The Commission bases its decisions on sound science and fact. If this is another EPA action designed to reach pre determined conclusions and to generate headlines rather than conduct a successful environmental investigation, then the public is poorly served. The Commission will not deny due process to the parties involved in spite of the false claims made against our investigative actions by the EPA staff.”

Range said in a statement that its wells are completed in the Barnett Shale formation which is over a mile below the water zone. “The investigation has revealed that methane in the water aquifer existed long before our activity and likely is naturally occurring migration from several shallow gas zones immediately below the water aquifer. Despite these findings, we remain committed to working with regulators and residents to determine the cause and to assist with any remediation the Texas Railroad Commission determines is warranted. Range will also offer to provide drinking water to residents in the area while the investigation continues.”

Additional steps planned by Range include working with the Railroad Commission to perform soil gas surveys that may lead to additional environmental investigation activities and to assist with monitoring gas concentrations.