December 20, 2014

Alarming Questions about EPA’s Oversight of Oil and Gas Drillers

Joint statement by Bruce Baizel, Director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, and Dusty Horwitt, Senior Counsel for Environmental Working Group, EWG

WASHINGTON – January 17 – A report yesterday by the Associated Press that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency withdrew action against a natural gas company despite evidence that its drilling operations had contaminated drinking water in Texas raises alarming questions about the industry’s influence and the agency’s commitment to protecting public health and the environment.

According to an investigation by the AP’s Ramit Plushnick-Masti, the EPA dropped legal action against Range Resources Corp. even though an independent study strongly suggested that Range’s drilling operations contaminated a nearby water well. The study was conducted by scientist Geoffrey Thyne and commissioned by the EPA.

“If people can’t trust the Environmental Protection Agency to protect communities and the environment, who can they?” asked Earthworks’ Bruce Baizel. He continued, “Not the states, they leave uninspected more than 50 percent of oil and gas wells each year. So long as the public cannot rely on regulators to defend the public interest from drillers, public opposition to drilling will continue to grow.”

EWG’s Dusty Horwitt added, “From Texas to New York to California, regulators at the federal and state level have shown that they are all too willing to overlook serious drilling risks.  What is even more troubling about this case is that EPA has allowed the drilling industry to criticize its scientific integrity when, all along, EPA officials had evidence of real drilling pollution. At the very least, these facts make it clear further investigation is needed, not only of Range’s activities, but also of EPA’s motivations.”