The oil and gas business makes some rich while others end up losing everything — including their health. In Wyoming, Encana and the state have made billions of dollars developing our oil and gas resources.

Unfortunately, many of us living with the development find ourselves in the second category. The contamination from oil and gas development has made us sick and left our farms and homes worthless.

Over the last few weeks the oil and gas industry spent significant resources to refute the EPA findings in Pavillion. Industry’s smear campaign is being picked up by the Wyoming press which has already passed judgment on the EPA draft report.

The EPA investigation is not being criticized by scientists or the people living with the contamination. It’s being criticized by industry and the state even before the study has gone through scientific peer review.

A recent Casper Star editorial (Jan. 15) appears to buy the industry smear campaign. It claims that the report is so flawed in the eyes of industry and the state a new study should be done.

The recent editorial and news articles fail to reveal that the EPA draft report is a result of years of testing by over 20 Ph.D.s and scientists from across the country. They also fail to report that the best known science and testing protocols were followed or that the EPA samples were analyzed at multiple labs to ensure quality control. The EPA investigation was conducted to understand the condition of drinking water wells and water aquifers in the Pavillion area.

The editorial suggests that the EPA report is “more about politics than science.” In reality it’s the reaction of Encana and the state that is about politics over science.

The Star-Tribune calls for a new study to be done that will have more credibility in the eyes of industry and the state. Why is the primary concern for industry and the state? The primary concern should always be for the people in the Pavillion area who are living with the consequences of contamination every day. Both Encana and the state of Wyoming have tried to cover-up the Pavillion area problems and contamination for over a decade. They ignored landowner concerns which forced us to contact the EPA. The investigation follows EPA’s mandate: Protecting human health and the environment.

Wyoming state agencies never tested the water in Pavillion. Instead, they reported to impacted residents that tests taken by Encana proved their water was fine.

The EPA investigation proves the Pavillion area water is contaminated.

The media battle rages on with little or no expertise. It is fueled by an unregulated oil and gas industry which has less credibility than Congress and is more powerful. Meanwhile, life doesn’t change for those of us living in “the gas patch.” We still need information to explain why we’re sick and what the source of contamination is.

That information will be available from the EPA investigation which neither the state nor industry wants to acknowledge.

Encana and the state view the data as a huge threat to the oil and gas industry.

But for those of us in the Pavillion area, the data is a means to understand the huge impacts oil and gas development has brought to our doorstep.

Our health is being impacted by the toxic constituents and explosive levels of methane in our drinking water and aquifers. When we turn on the tap, the water still reeks of hydrocarbons and chemicals. Our drinking water now comes in 5 gallon jugs.

We wonder how we’re going to support our families and pay our bills if the contamination affects our livestock and farming operations. Selling our homes and farms is no longer an option because property values in our community have been ruined. Our homes and farms can’t even be used as collateral for a loan.

We urge all Wyoming’s citizens to consider Wyoming’s water, air and future before rushing to an uneducated opinion from propaganda fueled by an industry that makes billions. Read the EPA draft report, educate yourself and make comments during the public comment period. We should allow the science to be reviewed and critiqued by scientists before suggesting years of scientific study be thrown out. The EPA has shown it cares about human health and the environment. We hope that some day Encana and the state of Wyoming will as well.

John Fenton, a farmer and rancher, is chairman of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens and a board member of the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

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