Don't throw out the wells, throw out the conclusions

2012-12-31T00:00:00Z Don't throw out the wells, throw out the conclusions Casper Star-Tribune Online
December 31, 2012 12:00 am

Excuse the phrase: Encana has muddied the waters in Pavillion.

You may remember that Encana is the energy company accused of contaminating groundwater in the Pavillion area as it used hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas. A preliminary report by the Environmental Protection Agency linked petroleum hydrocarbons found in the fracking process in water, and blamed the industry.

Yet shortly after the initial release, Encana and scientists from various backgrounds poked holes in the report, criticizing the agency for shoddy, sloppy science that could have skewed the results.

Since those findings and the subsequent understandable attacks on the report, groups have been warring about the findings and what they meant.

One thing is for certain: The current EPA report that is still out for public comment will never be credible. That is because energy companies will always be able to assail the terrible science of the report.

That’s why we’ve said a new study with better science has to be conducted in order to ascertain data that can withstand the scrutiny of science. Until we demand new data, there is enough doubt and mistrust to keep the issue at loggerheads.

Earlier this month, though, Encana called on the EPA to abandon all of its water wells. It argued the wells should be removed because they were drilled too deep. Drilling too deeply would tap water, just not groundwater. Encana claims that any water taken from those wells will never be drinking water and therefore can’t be considered.

And, if the EPA admits those wells were improperly sampled and drilled too deeply, then it must also discredit its own findings on fracking.

We’re not scientists. And, we’re not able to assess the validity of Encana’s claim. That is better left hydrologists and geologists who can study the validity. We hope that experts from outside Encana and the EPA can weigh in on the important issue. We need outside, independent voices for perspective.

While it remains to be seen whether Encana’s request is more than just a political move, the concerns need an answer.

Encana is right in another way: Something needs to be abandoned.

The report that linked the Pavillion area water with fracking had acknowledged scientific problems. It had so many problems that we couldn’t find many who comment because the report itself raised too many questions. By the EPA’s admittance, it left a few big, key important holes.

With the charged politics surrounding Pavillion, it’s time for the EPA to admit: It made a mistake. No amount of backtracking, public commenting or explanation will justify the conclusions. The results shouldn’t fit a preconceived political position the White House seems intent on pushing which is that fracking is a bad, dangerous practice.

The only thing that should be abandoned is the old report. A new report and study should be conducted. Yet, it needs to be done in a way that has the credibility and respect of both the industry, scientists and the EPA itself.

As the EPA battles Encana, or vice versa, we’d point out that there are still residents without clean water. Even worse, they don’t have a clear picture of what’s causing this, how to fix it, and who is to blame.

Better science will mean better answers.

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(1) Comments

  1. mbudenske
    Report Abuse
    mbudenske - December 31, 2012 4:18 am
    by the time EPA does another report and/or some outside firm does a better report Encana will have cherry picked the best of the oil reserve, made millions and sold their interest to yet another company, moving on to leave the local land owners and the state with a big expensive mess. Don't believe me, look at the mess up around Pinedale and the Jonah field. The degradation of the environment there is starting to become extreme. Even former supporters of those fields are starting to admit this is true.

    Too bad that the negatives are only coming out after it is too late!
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