Hoping no one would notice, Obama picked noon on Christmas Eve to release the Inspector General (IG) report that justified the EPA’s Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order in the Range Resources’ Parker County water contamination case.
The IG’s in-depth investigation findings:
- EPA was right to issue the order.
- Withdrawal reasons are unclear and questionable.
- Recommends monitoring of Range Resources’ testing because the quality is questionable.
I just want to gloat for a moment and say: I told you so!
December 24, 2013
Response to Senator Inhofe accusation raises new questions as to why EPA withdrew its protection
December 24th 2014, Washington, D.C. & Parker County, TX – Today the EPA Inspector General found EPA Region 6 was justified in legally intervening to protect Parker County residents’ drinking water from drilling impacts. At Senator James Inhofe’s request, the Inspector General investigated to determine if Region 6’s intervention against Range Resources was due to political influence by the Obama administration.
“The EPA’s internal watchdog has confirmed that the EPA was justified in stepping in to protect residents who were and still are in imminent danger,” said Sharon Wilson, Gulf Regional Organizer of Earthworks. She continued, “Now we need an investigation as to whether political corruption caused EPA to withdraw that protection.”
EPA invoked its power to protect drinking water in 2010, prompting Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to request the Inspector General’s investigation in 2011. EPA withdrew its legal complaint against Range Resources in 2012 despite having a report from an independent scientist showing that a gas well drilled by Range likely polluted nearby water supplies.
EPA’s withdrawal from Parker County appears to be part of a larger pattern, in which the Obama administration has blocked or abandoned investigations of whether drilling or hydraulic fracturing polluted drinking water. In addition to the case in Parker County, reports in major news outlets indicate that the Obama administration caused the EPA to abandon studies of potential drilling or fracking pollution in Pavillion, WY and Dimock, PA despite evidence of drilling-related harm.
“The Obama administration appears to be more concerned about protecting corporate interests, not the public interest,” said Steve Lipsky. He continued, “President Obama promised that hydraulic fracturing would occur safely. With this IG report, it now seems clear that he is determined to squash any evidence to the contrary.”
Just prior to the release of the IG report, the Texas Railroad Commission (regulator of oil and gas, not railroads) opened an investigation into the case. EPA intervened in 2010 to protect area drinking water only after the commission refused to do so. The Commission’s new investigation prevents the EPA from legally intervening now as it did in 2010.
“Regulators shouldn’t have to be pressured into doing their job to protect people like me from drilling impacts,” said Shelly Perdue, a Parker County resident with drilling-polluted drinking water. She continued, “if what has happened to me is happening to others, I completely understand why communities across the country are voting to ban fracking and drilling.”
“Releasing this report at noon on Christmas Eve shows the Obama administration is obviously embarrassed by its findings,” said Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “As they should be. The withdrawal of Obama’s EPA is an abject failure of its mission to protect Americans’ health and environment.”
The question of the day is: Who pressured the EPA to back off this case? From Amy Mall’s blog post:
- Senior officials from EPA and a senior attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice agreed that there was enough evidence to enforce the EPA order and EPA’s case to address the emergency. EPA, however, also apparently at the same time told the IG that it believed “its prospects in this case were uncertain” and, because they would have to gather additional evidence, it “was not an efficient use of agency resources.”
- EPA apparently stated that, because a homeowner with contaminated water could afford to purchase water from an alternative source, the risks had lessened.
- Range Resources agreed to participate in EPA’s research study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water “once the EPA withdrew the order.” Although Range made this commitment in March 2012, Range has apparently not yet agreed to allow EPA access to its facilities or provide information to EPA.
- The IG found that EPA’s withdrawal from the case did not violate any regulations or policy.
When asked if he felt vindicated, landowner Steve Lipsky answered, “Hell no! I’m just getting started.”
When the EPA backed out, Range filed a $4 million-dollar lawsuit against Lipsky for Conspiracy to Commit Defamation. And they tried to roll me into that lawsuit by calling me the “Orchestrator” of the conspiracy.
Today Dr. Al Armendariz and Steve and Shyla Lipsky were vindicated. We thank them for their courage.