EPA's Pavillion Report Slammed During House Subcommittee Hearing

Feb 1, 2012

Members of the U.S. House Energy and Environment Subcommittee slammed the Environmental Protection Agency during a hearing about the agency’s ground water research in the town of Pavillion.

The Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing got off to a late start after “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested for trying to film the proceedings. Fox has spent considerable time in Pavillion documenting water contamination that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing. An ABC News crew was denied entrance to the hearing.

From there, Chairman Republican Congressman Andy Harris charged the EPA with a “remarkable display of arrogance and disregard for the plain facts” concerning fracking practices through “scientific innuendo and regulatory straight-jacketing.”

“In the past year, this subcommittee has held numerous hearings on the EPA’s use and abuse of science,” said Harris. “Time and again we have demonstrated that this Agency is substituting outcome-driven science for rigorous objective science. EPA’s investigation of groundwater contamination in Pavillion appears to be yet another example of politics trumping policy and advocacy trumping science.”

In December, the EPA released data indicating that water in the aquifer contained compounds “likely” associated with hydraulic fracturing.

Witnesses at the hearing included Tom Doll, supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Kathleen Sgamma, of the Western Energy Alliance, Dr. Bernard Goldstein, of the University of Pittsburgh, and James Martin, the regional administrator for Region 8 of the EPA.

Things didn’t go well for Martin during testimony at the hearing. Representative Harris went after him first.

“What substances were found at concentrations above the drinking water levels that are accepted for public water supplies,” Harris said.

“Benzene was the most notable example,” Martin answered.

“Which other ones, could you list them?”

“Only one I believe.”

“The only one, okay, so it was the only one,” said Harris. “And its true it was found in only one of the two monitoring wells?”

“No, I don’t believe that’s correct,” replied Martin.

“I suggest you look at your draft report which suggests that monitoring one did not have measurable amounts and monitoring well two had them.”

“I don’t have the report in front of me,” said Martin.

“I do,” replied Harris.

No one from Pavillion was invited to testify before the subcommittee. The subcommittee will keep the record open for an additional two weeks for further comment and testimony, and the EPA will continue to take public comment on their draft report into March.