State, local and Federal regulators have agreed on another round of water sampling in Wyoming as they investigate claims hydraulic fracturing contaminated ground water in the area.
The regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agreed with some Native American tribes this week that more water tests are needed, the Associated Press reported.
The delay is important because many assumptions about the effects of fracking are linked to a controversial draft study in Pavillion, Wy., which linked hydraulic fracturing to ground water contamination in that town.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in recent weeks has appeared to soften her stand on the potential dangers of fracking. Last month, speaking at a New Jersey college, she changed previous language that indicated she was skeptical about its dangers.
Recent discussions between EPA, the State of Wyoming and the Tribes have recognized the value of further sampling of monitoring wells to develop additional information on groundwater quality, EPA spokesman Rich Mylott told the AP.
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The U.S. Geological Survey will conduct two more water surveys before July. The first test could come next month.
The samples will be taken from two monitoring wells the EPA already dug in the area.
It is only going to further verify what the EPA has already found here, said John Fenton, chairman of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, an affiliate of the Powder River Basin Resource Council that is trying to hold the natural gas industry accountable.
Fenton's is among 10 families who've complained for years that water in the area has been contaminated by natural gas drilling.
Fenton's own water, he said, became more saline and contains methane. He said the EPA's analysis of the area's water shows evidence of chemicals that have yet to be identified, beyond the glycols the EPA was able to identify.
Fenton believes the EPA is conducting a new round of tests because the agency caved in to outside pressure from oil and natural gas industry players criticizing its draft report. He said the new round of testing is likely to delay any final determination by another year.
People have been fighting this battle for a decade now, Fenton said. People are very weary, people are tired. To us, this adds another weight on our backs.
EnCana Corp. (NYSE: ECA) the Calgary-based company that operates in the area, has criticized the EPA draft report saying regulators sampled water too close to naturally yielding zones of hydrocarbons, and have thus misinterpreted their data.
EnCana's shares fell 9 cents to $19.78 in Friday trading.