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Caving to Corporate Pressure, EPA Dropped Fracking Contamination Probe

'The deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests'

Beth Brogan, staff writer

The EPA had evidence drilling by Range Resources caused Steve Lipsky's water to be contaminated with methane but dropped its action when the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study fracking, the AP reports. (Photograph: Public Herald)

The EPA succumbed to pressure from a drilling company and dropped an investigation into whether its fracking operation was contaminating a Texas homeowner's drinking water, new documents obtained by the Associated Press show.

Steve Lipsky, who lives near Fort Worth, Texas, told officials in 2010 that his drinking water 'bubbled" like champagne and water from his garden hose ignited, the AP reports.

The EPA immediately issued a rare endangerment order noting that "at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane" — but more than a year later rescinded the order with no explanation.

But a confidential report and interviews obtained by the AP determined that "the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study into (fracking). Regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination. ... Range Resources told EPA officials in Washington that so long as the agency continued to pursue a 'scientifically baseless' action against the company in Weatherford, it would not take part in the study and would not allow government scientists onto its drilling sites."

In March 2011 the state declared the company was not responsible.

According to Brantley Hargrove at the Dallas Observer: "Range Resources suggested EPA came to realize the error of its ways and backed off. Meanwhile, Lipsky still has to haul in the water his family uses. He felt, not without justification, that EPA hung him out to dry."

"I just can't believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn't use it," Lipsky said.

“It is unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency, which is tasked with safeguarding our nation’s vital natural resources, would fold under pressure to the oil and gas industry," a statement from Americans Against Fracking said, in part. “It is again abundantly clear that the deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests, even when mounting scientific evidence shows that drilling and fracking pose a direct threat to vital drinking water supplies.”

“This case also shows that fracking cannot be safely regulated when the oil and gas industry can use its considerable clout to bend the rules in its own favor. The only true way to protect our communities it to ban this process altogether,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch on behalf of AAF.

Lipsky said his family still worries when methane detectors go off. "This has been total hell. It's been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life."

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