AUSTIN –– Railroad Commissioners today said a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to vacate an emergency order against a natural gas operator, Range Resources, confirms the science and evidence presented at a January 2011 Railroad Commission hearing called after EPA issued its emergency order. Following the Commission’s hearing, the Commission found that Range Resources natural gas wells should be allowed to continue to produce as they were not causing or contributing to contamination of any Parker County domestic water wells, as erroneously alleged in EPA’s December 2010 emergency order.
Chairman Barry Smitherman said, “By dropping their court case and enforcement actions, EPA now acknowledges what we at the Railroad Commission have known for more than a year: Range Resources' Parker County gas wells did not contaminate groundwater. This announcement is a vindication of the science-based processes at the Railroad Commission. It is good to see EPA reconsidering their tactics after being rebuked by the federal courts twice in the past two weeks. I will remain vigilant to ensure that the EPA uses the highest standards of science instead of making arbitrary regulations designed to further President Obama's anti-fossil fuel agenda.”
Commissioner David Porter said, “Today the EPA finally made a decision based on science and fact versus playing politics with the Texas economy. The EPA’s withdrawal of the emergency order against Range Resources upholds the Railroad Commission Final Order that I signed concluding that Range is not responsible for any water contamination in Parker County. Al Armanderiz and the EPA’s Region Six office are guilty of fear mongering, gross negligence and severe mishandling of this case. I hope to see drastic changes made in the way the regional office conducts business in the future – starting with the termination of Al Armanderiz.”
On Dec. 7, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Emergency Administrative Order to Range that concluded the natural gas in the water wells is likely to be from the same source as gas produced from Range’s wells and that Range caused or contributed to methane in the two nearby water wells that were the subject of the Railroad Commission hearing.
The Commission invited the EPA and the two domestic water well owners to present their evidence at the Commission’s January 19-20, 2011 administrative law hearing. However, no EPA officials or water well owners appeared to testify.
Evidence presented during the Commission’s hearing included geochemical gas fingerprinting that demonstrated the gas in the domestic water wells came from the shallower Strawn gas field, which begins about 200 to 400 feet below the surface. The natural gas tested did not match the gas produced by Range from the much deeper Barnett Shale field, which is more than 5,000 feet below the surface in that area. Range also presented information to demonstrate that the two Range gas wells were mechanically sound, without any leaks. Evidence presented at the hearing showed that hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in the area could not result in communication between the Barnett Shale gas field and shallow aquifers from which water wells in the area produce.
About the Railroad Commission
Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including more than 90 years regulating the oil and gas industry. Additionally, the Commission promotes research and education on the use of alternative fuels and has jurisdiction over gas utility, surface mining and pipeline industries. Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/.