WASHINGTON, DC, September 25, 2013 (ENS) - Residents of three states who say they were harmed by gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, held a news conference in front of the White House today to demand that the government reopen investigations into fracking-related drinking water pollution in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.
They then delivered 250,000 signatures on a petition stating their demands to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy at EPA headquarters.
The residents were all part of EPA fracking investigations in their states that the agency abandoned despite evidence of fracking-related water contamination.
The petitions were collected by Stop the Frack Attack and Americans Against Fracking and its advisory committee member, actor Mark Ruffalo.
“Today, I stand with affected community members from Dimock, Pennsylvania; Pavilion, Wyoming; and Parker County, Texas to call on President Obama and the EPA to re-open the investigations on the link between fracking and drinking water contamination,” said Ruffalo. “The American people expect and deserve a transparent EPA that makes science-based decisions, free from political interference.”
This event comes a month after Dimock, Pennsylvania resident Ray Kemble and Susquehanna County resident Craig Stevens delivered over 50,000 petitions to the EPA asking the agency to reopen its investigation into the possible connection between gas drilling and water contamination in Dimock.
This action was precipitated by a “Los Angeles Times” investigation that found that EPA officials in Washington chose to close the agency’s inquiry into drinking water in Dimock, despite evidence gathered by regional EPA investigators that found “significant damage to the water quality, from poisonous contamination likely caused by fracking.”
“Last month, we told EPA officials that we would be back in a month with more petitions,” said Stevens. “Today, we are here to deliver five times our original number of petitions, and we stand here with affected community members from Pavilion, Wyoming and Parker County, Texas who have been through the same nightmare we have in Pennsylvania.”
“For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned fracked water in my home,” said Kemble, a former gas industry employee and affected Dimock area resident.
“When EPA finally stepped in and tested my water, I thought ‘Thank God. Someone is finally here to help us.’” said Kemble. “But then it became apparent to those of us on the ground that they were playing politics. EPA officials officially told us that our water was safe to drink but then told us off-the-record not to drink it. Now the truth is out and we want justice.”
In late 2010 in Parker County, EPA’s investigations led the agency to issue a rare emergency order because at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. But more than a year later, the agency rescinded its order without explaining why.
Although EPA had scientific evidence connecting the driller, Range Resources, with drinking water contamination, the agency changed course after political pressure from the company and its lobbyists, Associated Press reported.
“President Obama told us that we would only extract natural gas if it didn’t pollute our water,” said Steve Lipsky of Parker County. “EPA knows my water was polluted by fracking, their own investigator told them so. Now I have to truck in my drinking water. President Obama, you need to tell EPA to reopen its investigations.”
“The purpose of the EPA is to protect us all from these types of health and safety hazards,” said Shelly Perdue, of Parker County, whose water and air have been contaminated with methane. “The methane at my house is 18 times the explosive level. It’s time for President Obama and Gina McCarthy to stand up for our communities.”
More recently, the EPA abandoned its fracking study in Pavillion, which found benzene, a known carcinogen, at 50 times the level that is considered safe. Instead, the EPA handed its investigation over to the state of Wyoming, whose lead politicians have voiced their support for fracking. This research will be funded by EnCana, the same company whose drilling and fracking operations may have caused the groundwater contamination at issue.
“EPA conducted an investigation into the contamination of our aquifer, and discovered that drilling was responsible,” said John Fenton a rancher from Pavillion. “But rather than finish, they knuckled under to political pressure and turned the investigation over to the very state and company that denied there was a problem in the first place. President Obama needs to tell EPA to reopen its investigations.”
The 14 organizations involved in EPA petition delivery are: Berks Gas Truth, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, Energy Action Coalition, Environmental Action, Food and Water Watch, Frack Action, Gasland, MoveOn.org, Public Citizen and the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
Today’s demonstration follows one million public comments delivered to the Obama Administration against fracking on public lands. The comments came as the public comment period closed August 24 on the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management’s second version of its proposed Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands rule.
The BLM rule applies to more than 750 million acres of public lands and minerals: underneath tribal lands, national forests, wildlife refuges and other special places, and also beneath more than 50 million acres of privately-owned land, and drinking water sources for millions of Americans.