By Mary Mendoza
April 2, 2012
Ending a nearly 18-month saga, the EPA announced Friday that it had withdrawn an order against Range Resources over alleged groundwater contamination in the Barnett Shale.
This brings to a close a local battle reflecting a national controversy being debated in the media over the nature and magnitude of environmental risks associated with the unconventional production of shale gas and oil by hydraulic fracturing.
The battle began in December of 2010, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order to Range requiring it to provide alternate potable water supplies to certain residences, conduct an elaborate sampling program in the area, provide methane monitors to area homeowners and develop plans to remediate a contaminated aquifer. In its news release, the EPA trumpeted its order to Range as protection for homeowners against an imminent and substantial threat caused by Range's operations, even though the order was based upon a sampling of only two wells in the area.
The EPA-Range Resources battle was fought on a number of battlefields. Range took its case to the Texas Railroad Commission, which unanimously concluded that Range was not responsible by pointing to the shallow Strawn Formation as the likely source of the gas in the two wells.