EPA drops Texas water contamination case against Range

The US Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an administrative order issued to Range Resources Corp. and Range Production Co. on Dec. 7, 2010, that alleged Range polluted two water wells west of Fort Worth.

The notice of withdrawal of Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order was dated Mar. 29. EPA also agreed to drop a lawsuit it had filed in US District Court in Dallas. Previously, Range had appealed the administrative order.

In 2010, EPA said natural gas from Range’s gas wells matched the chemical composition of gas found in private water wells in North Texas.

Range was ordered to supply residents with water while it identified how gas migrated into the aquifer.

In response, Range said nearby water wells were known to contain concentrations of gas before Range started drilling.

In late March, the Texas Railroad Commission voted unanimously to uphold recommendations from TRC staff clearing Range of contaminating water in rural Parker County.

TRC investigators said geochemical testing indicated gas in the water wells was not from the Barnett shale formation but from the shallower Strawn gas field. Range drilled in the Barnett shale.

Range’s wells were mechanically sound, the TRC said, adding that Barnett shale hydraulic fracturing could not cause “communication” with shallower water aquifers.

Range and others investigating the incident suggest the water contamination stemmed from many houses relying upon a shallow drinking water aquifer. Water demand lowered water levels and hydrostatic pressure, allowing gas to flow into the aquifer.

EPA to retest Pavillion

In March, EPA indicated it was willing to retest water in Wyoming following questions about its testing methods concerning possible contamination of water east of Pavillion.

Agency officials said they are working with Wyoming state officials, area tribes, and other rural residents regarding more sampling of deep monitoring water wells that were drilled for an EPA groundwater study.

EPA also agreed to delay convening a peer review panel on its draft Pavillion report.

On Dec. 8, 2011, EPA released a draft report saying groundwater “contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. acquired Pavillion field assets in 2004 and has used fracing in some completions although a spokesman has told OGJ that Encana has done no fracing there since 2007.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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