February 4 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Local governments face production-related revenue downturn; more red tape sought for resource development; Wyoming’s cautionary tale
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legal, Legislation, New Energy Economy, PUC, regulations, solar energy, wind energy
Pushing for bans on fracking or other measures to limit responsible natural resource development will only exacerbate problems at the local level, putting education, infrastructure, and other critical services at risk, on top of the drop noted here in the Denver Post due to commodity prices tanking:
Because 97 percent of Platte Valley’s budget comes from taxes paid on mineral production and equipment — a property tax known as ad valorem — McClain said his district could be looking at a budget reduction between $300,000 and nearly $1 million next school year.
How that plays out in terms of potential cuts or program impacts is yet to be seen, he said.
“You’re always concerned about your folks,” McClain said. “You worry about it taking the forward momentum and positivity out.”
It’s not just schools that are suffering. Municipal budgets, local businesses and even hospitals in mineral-rich pockets of Colorado are watching closely to see how long prices remain depressed.
Combine that with a 72.3 percent drop in severance tax revenue–down to $77.6 million this year compared with $280 million last fiscal year–and you’ll get, in the words of the Post, “the state’s direct distributions of those proceeds to cities, counties, towns and schools will be reduced from a little more than $40 million in 2015 to just $11.9 million this year.”
Nearly 75 percent drop, just from falling oil prices. Put on top of that more red tape, or eliminate the practice altogether, and eventually those figures will head toward zero (no production = no tax revenue).
This is what is at stake when it comes to pushing back against the repetitively dubbed “common sense” regulation that threatens a rather large portion of the state’s economy.
BRIGHTON — Adams County leaders made it clear Wednesday morning that they won’t support a 10-month ban on new oil and gas activity in urban parts of the county after hearing nearly eight hours of testimony that began Tuesday night.
Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said he wasn’t comfortable imposing a moratorium on an industry that has proved critical to Adams County’s economy. He said he supported hiring an attorney that can make sure the county is making the best deals with industry as possible.
“I want to make the right decision with the right information,” Tedesco said.
His colleague, Erik Hansen, said oil and gas workers are not the villains their opponents make them out to be and that the county has a good site-by-site evaluation system already in place.
“You know what? The folks who work in the industry care about their kids too,” he said.
Those families–the workers and the kids–live in the communities. It may be stunning to anti-energy activists, but those developing and producing the energy that drives your car (gas OR electric), heats and cools your home, keeps your iPads and laptops running, and generally produces an incredible standard of living for you might live right next door. *shudder*
Good on Adams County for rejecting hyperbolic, paranoid nonsense.
And not to be outdone by the anti-fracking ballot measures proposed at the state level, Colorado legislators are looking to add more red tape, because enough is never enough, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s rulemaking last month did not address those concerns, say energy development opponents:
Democrats in the Colorado House, where that party has a majority, are expected to introduce two measures later this session, one making it easier for surface property owners to collect damages from mineral rights owners if their properties are damaged, and a second measure to give local governments more regulatory authority over drilling within their jurisdictions.
House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, said that second idea is something she highly supports.
“I think this bill would be a very reasonable approach,” she said. “I have always felt that’s where you have to get at, the conflict in property rights.”
Regardless of those measures, the backers of several proposed ballot measures dealing with fracking are still going ahead with their ideas.
Those proponents, who could not be reached for comment, have said they were not satisfied with new regulations approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission last week. They said those new rules, the result of a special task force established by Gov. John Hickenlooper as a compromise to keep the proposals off the ballot in 2014, didn’t go far enough.
Rest assured, short of the outright ban, anti-energy folks will not back off even if all of the proposed measures are put into place. New development might be blocked, but continuing extraction would still be a target. They will never be satisfied, until all development is 100 percent eliminated.
The Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter would like the entire state of Colorado to be 100% renewable, beginning with Denver. Becky English, the executive committee chair for the Sierra Club, responded to an email about a sustainability summit scheduled for early December in Denver:
I would have liked to share that the Sierra Club national board has declared a goal of powering the electric sector by 100% renewable energy nationwide, and that the Rocky Mountain Chapter has adopted the goal for Colorado. I will approach you offline about how best to work toward this goal in Denver.
Stakeholder meetings or dog-and-pony shows supporting the Clean Power Plan and the state’s agencies dedicated to enforcing the rule (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)–the Gazette certainly has an opinion:
Reality struck when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment took the show to Brush, a rural eastern plains town where people work hard to earn a buck.
Four of five panel members were cheerleaders for the president’s plan, which has the full support of Gov. John Hickenlooper. Panelist Kent Singer, an attorney and executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, offered the panel’s only balance. He said public utilities and electric cooperatives are supposed to provide reliable energy at a price households, farms, ranches and businesses can afford. The president’s plan, he worries, would impose hardships.
Audience participants crashed the party to explain how eastern Coloradans have invested in hundreds of wind turbines that won’t count toward the proposed standards, as the plan would disqualify assets built before 2013.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg told state officials he represents 21,000 square miles that host more wind turbines than the rest of the state combined, and most would not qualify. He worries about constituents having to fund investments they already made in vain.
“We can look at the lower middle class, the working poor, the poor and the elderly and see how they would be impacted, and how it would make it even tougher for them,” Sonnenberg said. A farmer who spends $10,000 on energy to irrigate a field would take a big hit, the senator explained, at a time when some crop prices have plunged.
State health officials need to get serious about their presentation for the remaining “All Stakeholder” meetings in Pueblo and Craig. This plan poses serious consequences for those who cannot afford haphazard and experimental efforts to control the climate. We need a balance of experts presenting a variety of views, not another panel stacked with support for a political agenda.
Having attended one of the first CDPHE “stakeholder” events back in September 2015, I can assure the reader that comments in favor of the Clean Power Plan ran about 15 to 1, with plenty of others from industry to rural electric co-ops basically pleading for the agency to implement the rule as mercifully as possible.
It’s clear from the first few events that the stakeholder process is nothing more than a three ring circus for advocates like activists and renewable energy businesses to show up and applaud the agency, giving it a rather unnecessary shot in the arm of confidence. Meanwhile, the folks who actually bear the brunt of the rule itself, whether it’s the ratepayer who pays for the energy and the guaranteed profit for the utilities (all stranded assets like coal plants having to be replaced with more expensive energy alternatives), the taxpayer who is on the hook for subsidizing unaffordable and unreliable energy alternatives, the farmers and investors who were sold a bill of goods in years past of being part of a “New Energy Economy” by previous politicians only to be passed over and not counted as renewables anyway . . . the list goes on and on.
The CDPHE process is really illustrative of quite a few economic concepts, from crony capitalism to captive regulation, concentrated benefits vs. dispersed costs, and government intrusion in the free market to pick energy winners and losers. In this case, the winners repeatedly show up and applaud. The potential losers are taken out of the process, and must rely on lawsuits like the multi-state challenge joined by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, or the much more distant hope of an administrative change in policy due to a shift in the political climate at the Federal level.
Turning to updates on the Gold King Mine spill:
DENVER – Southwest Colorado feels forgotten in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine spill, state lawmakers heard Wednesday.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, expressed the sentiment to a House committee just before the panel killed his legislation that would have allowed the state to file lawsuits against the federal government on behalf of individuals impacted by the spill.
Coram was especially irked by the fact that the measure was assigned to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, a committee sometimes used by the majority party to kill legislation deemed unpopular by leadership. Democrats control the House.
The bill died on a 5-4 party-line vote.
“If this (Gold King spill) had happened in a metropolitan area, we would be doing something. But the fact is, in rural Southwest Colorado, we … have the opinion that the Front Range does not care who suffers in rural Colorado,” Coram told the committee.
And while state efforts to provide relief failed, Congressional inquiries into the EPA-caused spill continue apace, with calls for transparency and clarification over the role of the EPA in a report from the Department of the Interior that was supposed to be impartial and independent:
A key report on the Gold King Mine disaster, which poisoned drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation, is now being questioned by congressional committee and subcommittee chairmen.
New evidence may “contradict” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Gina McCarthy’s “repeated assertions” to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) “that EPA had reviewed only a [Department of the Interior] press release and had no role in DOI’s independent review” of the Gold King Mine blowout, according to a Wednesday letter to McCarthy.
“Please clarify … that DOI did not have a conflict of interest, that its review would be independent and that EPA officials had no involvement in DOI’s review,” committee Chairman Jim Inhofe and Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee Chairman M. Michael Rounds wrote.
The DOI report detailed that the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill, which sent three million gallons of wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River, was preventable. The report stated, however, events at the site before and after the incident were beyond the investigation’s scope – even though such details were sought by the EPW committee.
We’ll keep an eye on this development.
News from our Wyoming neighbors, a cautionary tale of how the current administration’s push to kill coal will likely kill local communities too:
President Barack Obama’s administration has ordered a three-year moratorium on sales of federal coal reserves, and it’s putting a rare mood on folks in Gillette, a ranching-turned-energy town of 32,000: pessimism.
“Most of the time it comes back. This time, I don’t know,” said Bobbie Garcia, watching her daughter summit a two-story climbing structure at the town’s $53 million recreation center largely built with coal money.
Until recently, the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana remained a rare bright spot for the industry. Even as Appalachian mines shut down and cheap natural gas started crowding out coal as a power plant fuel, economies of scale kept the region rumbling.
Massive strip mines sprawled across tens of thousands of acres, much of it in the Thunder Basin National Grassland, produce roughly 40 percent of the nation’s supply of the fuel.
For Gillette and other communities, that means more than 7,000 mining industry jobs. And not just fly-by-night, roughneck gigs, but the sort that sustain families year after year, pointed out Michael Von Flatern, a state senator who has lived in Gillette since the early 1970s.
The sort of jobs that are likely irreplaceable. Also, it’s no easy task replacing 40 percent of the country’s coal, considering that 23 percent of U.S. energy production still comes from that resource. Compare that to 0.5 percent for solar and 2 percent for wind, according to the Energy Information Administration through 2014 (the last full year).
If you want to know what’s headed for Colorado, look north. Or ask the folks in Moffat County about the Colowyo Mine situation from last year.
This may be the best column that Michael Sandoval and I have ever written. First, we use the Environmental Protection Agency’s own report to expose how “green” technology actually is polluting, not saving, the planet. Second, what does the need to be “green” say about those who advance an energy policy that makes no sense economically or environmentally? Please check out our latest for Townhall Finance titled “Green Technology that Pollutes the Planet,” or the text is also provided below.
Eco-evangelicals: Sanctimonious green technology that pollutes the planet
By Amy Oliver Cooke and Michael Sandoval
In previous columns, we’ve exposed that “renewable” technology is neither renewable, nor clean, nor green because it relies upon rare earth elements—it’s also neither cost effective nor efficient but that’s another column. Currently the Chinese have a stranglehold over all phases of rare earth production, including mining, processing, and refining. China accounts for ninety five percent of the world market in rare earth elements (REEs).
With virtually no regulations or concerns over worker safety, the Chinese monopoly has resulted in an ecological disaster. Sites such as those in Baotou, Inner Mongolia make the Love Canal, the impetus for the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Superfund,” look like Rocky Mountain National Park.
Finally, we’ve been able to quantify the pollution of some green technology sectors in a way that makes sense to the average American family sitting at their kitchen table.
The Math of Pollution
The U.S. Department of Energy, in studying the reductions of REEs available in the world market due to Chinese cutbacks, has identified the seventeen elements as “key” and “critical” to ongoing technological development, including use in electronic components for defense purposes, but also for the “clean” green energy sector.
The DOE’s efforts prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the development of REE resources here in the U.S., paying particular attention to the economic feasibility but also the more important question of—you guessed it—environmental impact.
In its August 2011 study, “Investigating Rare Earth Element Mine Development in EPA Region 8 and Potential Environmental Impacts,” the EPA reported on several sites located in the intermountain West, from Idaho to Colorado, which could become only the second REE mining operation in the entire country.
The study also reported extensively on the possible sources of contaminants and waste byproducts associated with all mining, and especially those concentrated in REE-related extraction.
In the section titled “Potential Risks to Human Health and the Environment,” the EPA reports that:
…every ton of rare earth elements produced generates approximately 8.5 kilograms of fluorine and 13 kilograms of flue dust. Additionally, sulfuric acid refining techniques used to produce one ton of rare earth elements generates 9,600 to 12,000 cubic meters of gas laden with flue dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid. Not only are large quantities of harmful gas produced, alarming amounts of liquid and solid waste also resulted from Chinese refining processes. They estimate at the completion of refining one ton of rare earth elements, approximately 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water and about one ton of radioactive waste residue are produced. The IAGS reports China produced over 130,000 metric tons of rare earth elements in 2008 alone (IAGS, 2010). Extrapolation of the waste generation estimates over total production yields extreme amounts of waste. With little environmental regulation, stories of environmental pollution and human sickness remain frequent in areas near Chinese rare earth element production facilities.
So for each metric ton of REEs produced, an equal amount of radioactive waste is also produced. At approximately 2,204 lbs, that’s about the weight of an average sedan. As for those 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water, just think of a swimming pool measuring thirty feet long by fifteen feet wide by six feet deep. That’s approximately 20,000 gallons of acid water. Just remember, China produces 95 percent of all REEs in the world—so that’s more than 130,000 swimming pools.
To further the perspective, each 3 MW wind turbine requires two tons of REEs for the permanent magnet that converts wind into electricity. So much for “clean.”
The EPA report continues:
As discussed, mining and refining processes can introduce radionuclides, rare earth elements, metals, and other potential contaminants into the environment at unnaturally high rates. Once introduced into the environment, the potential contaminants can be redistributed through the three ‘environmental mediums.’ These three mediums include air, soil, and water. Living organisms depend on environmental mediums with stable chemical properties for their survival. The release of the possible contaminants from rare earth element production could alter the properties of the three environmental mediums.
The Chinese have labeled areas around rare earth mines, like Baotou, as “cancer villages.” To call the situation a “human sickness” is like calling Hurricane Katrina just another rainstorm. The toxic bi-products literally kill everything – animals, vegetation, and people by contaminating the air, soil, and water.
Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt, crimes against the environment
A hybrid-owning friend labeled Amy’s 2001 Jeep Cherokee “earth cancer.” The assumption that a hybrid is eco-friendly has been one of the greatest propaganda campaigns of our time.
Let’s return to the EPA report:
Permanent magnets represent the staple clean energy technology of future green economies. They constitute main components of lightweight, high powered motors and generators due to their production of a stable magnetic field without the need for an external power source. Permanent magnet motors power contemporary electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, while permanent magnet generators produce electricity from wind turbines (USDOE, 2010). The key element derived samarium-cobalt permanent magnets dominate rare earth technology because they produce a magnetic field in a much smaller size. The samarium-cobalt permanent magnet also retains its magnetic strength at high temperatures making it ideal for clean energy and even military applications, including precision guided munitions and aircrafts (IAGS, 2010).
Permanent magnets work in conjunction with high efficiency rare earth based batteries to store energy in electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (USDOE, 2010). Current generation hybrid electric vehicles use a battery with a cathode containing a host of rare earths including lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, praseodymium, and cobalt (Kopera, 2004). Each hybrid electric battery may contain several kilograms of rare earth materials (USDOE, 2010). Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles require even greater storage capacity and higher power ratings than typical hybrid vehicles. In light of this, automakers will likely use the lithium ion battery, increasing demand for yet another key element. Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory estimated one lithium ion battery contains 3.4-12.7 kilograms of lithium depending on proprietary design (USDOE, 2010).
Through November 2011, 237,707 hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. with the Toyota Prius leading the pack with 119,459 vehicles sold this year. Hybrid’s “green, clean” technology requires between 20 -25 pounds of rare earth elements, twice that of regular vehicles.
Thinking electric such as Chevy Volt? So far in 2011, auto manufacturers have sold 15,068 electric vehicles in the U.S., and each one requires 10 pounds of rare earth magnets.
That means that through the end of November, hybrids and electric vehicles sales consumed between 4,904,820 and 6,093,355 pounds of rare earths. That’s somewhere between 2,452 and 3,047 tons.
If processing one ton of rare earth elements produces approximately 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water and about one ton of radioactive waste residue, then hybrid and electric vehicles alone produce between 183,900 and 228,525 cubic meters of acidic waste water and between 2,452 and 3,047 tons of radioactive waste.
A little conversion: one cubic meter is roughly 264 gallons. On the low end, that’s enough to cover nearly 150 football fields with toxic waste water a foot deep. Or put another way, the more than 48,550,000 gallons of fouled water from alternative vehicles is equal to the annual household usage of 445 families of four. That’s just one toxic byproduct. There are many more.
To add insult to ecological injury, these cars are expensive and don’t perform or handle very well. And owners still need fossil fuels either to run them (oil, gasoline) or for the electricity to charge them (coal). So why on earth would anyone buy one?
In your face
Apparently hybrid vehicles owners don’t really want to save the world, they just want to look like they do.
The New York Times reported in 2007 that the number reason why people buy the Toyota Prius is “it makes a statement about me.”
“‘I really want people to know that I care about the environment,” said Joy Feasley of Philadelphia, owner of a green 2006 Prius. ‘I like that people stop and ask me how I like my car.’”
And Mary Gatch of Charleston, S.C., explained, “’I felt like the Camry Hybrid was too subtle for the message I wanted to put out there…I wanted to have the biggest impact that I could, and the Prius puts out a clearer message.’”
“The Prius allowed you to make a green statement with a car for the first time ever,” said Dan Becker, head of the global warming program at the Sierra Club (and yes, a Prius owner).
Translation—what the fine folks quoted in the Times are really saying is, “My image as an eco-conscious consumer is more important than the actual images of environmental degradation no one ever sees.”
Of course, it also helps when green Kool-Aid drinking Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Bill Maher make their planet-saving statements driving the Pacific Coast Highway in their eco-polluting hybrid.
It isn’t just hybrid owners that are sanctimonious eco-evangelicals. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explains that being green is a status symbol of both wealth and altruism.
Given the relationship between self-sacrifice and status, costly signaling theory suggests that people might engage in costly pro-social behaviors such as environmental conservation particularly when they are motivated to attain status. Because the purchase of green products enables a person to signal that he is both willing and able to buy a product that benefits others at a cost to his personal use, activating a motive for status might lead people to engage in conspicuous conservation—public pro-environmental acts.
It gets worse. Eco-evangelicals want to spend more not less. They simply can’t be trusted on cost effectiveness.
Additional findings showed that status motives increased desirability of green products especially when such products cost more—but not less—relative to non-green products. In line with costly signaling theory, buying inexpensive green products can undermine a person’s ability to signal wealth. This finding suggests that green products such as the Toyota Prius might be selling well not despite their premium price tag but perhaps in part because such products are more expensive. Indeed, 40% of hybrid owners indicate that they bought a green car as an alternative to a traditional luxury car such as a BMW.
They’ll have to be prepared to pay given China’s decision to further reduce the world supply of REEs. The New York Times characterized the jump in prices for just one common “green” technology—compact fluorescent lightbulbs:
General Electric, facing complaints in the United States about rising prices for its compact fluorescent bulbs, recently noted in a statement that if the rate of inflation over the last 12 months on the rare earth element europium oxide had been applied to a $2 cup of coffee, that coffee would now cost $24.55.
In other words, forget reason, forget economics, forget the environment; we’ll pay more for everything – energy, a car, light bulbs, or hair products – if we think the world will know that we can afford to be green.
Not actually “green,” mind you.
National security versus “green economy”
Pollution aside, the U.S. relies upon these rare minerals for everything, including iPods, laptops, solar panels, windmills, alternative fuel vehicles, and advanced military weaponry. While the demand and price have gone up, China has strategically limited the supply. It is building it’s own supply while cutting production to roughly 70 percent by 2015.
This situation has the federal government worried. The EPA reports that the Department of Energy is “concerned the rising demand for key elements in electronic and military sectors could hamper the growth of the U.S. ‘green economy,’ or an economy based on renewable energy.”
The real worry should be whether or not the world believes we can afford to waste money on “green” technology. Our reputation is at stake. What will the rest of the world think of us?
Even though estimates put total U.S. reserves around 13 percent of known REE resources worldwide, the first (and only) U.S. mine expected to be anywhere near production of REEs, Mountain Pass, was only just granted permission by the U.S. government this month to begin exploration, with actual extraction not set to begin until 2012. A second possible site located in Wyoming has been identified by the EPA as holding production potential, but is many years away from completing the myriad required impact statements and permit approvals. Among the biggest concerns surrounding the Wyoming site? Airborne radionuclides and waste water associated with the chemical refining process.
So for the next few years at the very least, China will continue to control the REE market while other countries, including the U.S., ramp up exploration and possible production of the elements and their known pollutants and waste material byproducts.
The age of “conspicuous conservation” will have to compete with more important things such as national security, as much of our high tech weaponry requires rare earth minerals. The demand for “green” will also compete with our love of gadgets such as iPods and computers, and with those civilization-required things like lighting, batteries, and basic electricity.
The new “high efficiency light bulbs” require rare earths while old fluorescents did not—to make them more “visually pleasing.” At least consumers face a temporary reprieve of that particular government mandate, with the ban on “non-green” incandescent light bulbs commuted for at least a little longer.
While alternative vehicle owners, solar panel supporters, and wind turbine advocates may feel better about themselves, they’re actually polluting the planet with their “clean/green” technology. Advancing these policies is beyond irresponsible, especially when the foundation of the “clean” scheme is revealed.
This green hypocrisy has Mother Nature crying out for a separation of earth and state.
Amy Oliver Cooke is the founder of Mothers Against Debt (www. Mothersagainstdebt.com). She is also the director of the Colorado Transparency Project for the Independence Institute and writes on energy policy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Sandoval is the Managing Editor of People’s Press Collective and a former political reporter for National Review Online.
While the rest of the world loses its collective mind over an Environmental Protection Agency “draft finding” that hydraulic fracturing may be the cause of groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, Governor Matt Mead is a voice of reason. In a press release from his office, Mead stated, “the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft study on Pavillion wells is scientifically questionable and more testing is needed.”
Too much is at stake, according to Mead, including his state’s economic and environmental health and well being, to overreact to “draft findings”… “based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells.”
Bottom line is that more information is needed before blaming hydraulic fracturing, but that won’t prevent hysteria in the anti-fossil fuel crowd. The full text of Governor Mead’s press release is below:
Governor Mead: Implications of EPA Data Require Best Science
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Governor Matt Mead said today that the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft study on Pavillion wells is scientifically questionable and more testing is needed.
“We believe that the draft study could have a critical impact on the energy industry and on the country so it is imperative that we not make conclusions based on only four data points,” Governor Mead said. “Those familiar with the scientific method recognize that it would not be appropriate to make a judgment without verifying all of the testing that has been done.”
Residents near Pavillion have complained about their water wells for several years. They are entitled to answers and they need clean water. Therefore, Wyoming formed a working group to investigate the problem. That group included residents, state agencies, Tribes, EPA and the Bureau of Land Management. The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of the working group until a month ago.
“The first review of the study by the Pavillion Working Group was unable to resolve many of the questions related to the sources of the compounds detected,” said John Corra, Director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and a member of the Working Group. State agencies, representatives of the Tribes and the BLM all raised similar concerns to the EPA.
Specifically, Wyoming and other members of the Pavillion Working Group have raised questions about the lack of replication of testing (typically findings from only two sampling events suggest that more sampling is needed before conclusions can be drawn). Members of the working group also have questions about the compound 2-BE, which was found in 1 sample out of 4 that were taken, and why it was only found in results from one lab, while other labs tested the exact same water sample and did not find it.
“More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning results,” Tom Doll said. Doll is the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Supervisor and a member of the Pavillion Working Group.
Governor Mead has asked the EPA to partner with Wyoming and industry to do the necessary further testing. He said he was pleased to hear that the EPA would be willing to partner in that effort. Wyoming will take part in the peer review of the draft. “My takeaway message is that both the EPA and Wyoming believe this is only the beginning of the process to understand the cause and scope of what was found. There are too many questions raised by what we have seen so far to not pursue further information,” Governor Mead said.
“We do not want to predetermine the outcome of further research, but do feel the need for more thoroughness. I want to know what happened in Pavillion and feel the responsible approach is to do more testing,” Governor Mead said. “What we do know is that there has not been fracking in this area for several years and that there have been significant changes in our drilling regulations since then. Wyoming has led the country in regulating fracking because we want to protect our people, protect the environment and bring energy to the nation. More research will only help us.”
Earlier testing did show problems with a few drinking wells near Pavillion. The working group will continue to explore causes with those wells. Currently, the people with concerns about their drinking water are being provided water by industry. Wyoming has also commissioned a study to look at alternative water supplies for these residents.