Encana questioned EPA’s methodology stating that results were likely caused by “problems associated with...drilling and sampling.” PAW called the results “unsubstantiated” and “irresponsible.” Senator James Inhofe (R) called them “premature” and raised questions “regarding EPA’s data and methodologies.” They have all demanded more independent testing and peer review.
This national story quickly brought to mind the cases of contaminated water in Connoquennesing Township that implicate REX Energy. On December 3, 2011 the Butler Eagle published a story on the front page that lead with “Well water is fine for human use.” It is based on a report prepared by AMEC from Sewickley, PA; an engineering consultancy firm contracted by Rex.
Although the AMEC report was dated October 10, 2011, Rex Energy did not release their findings to the homeowners until December 2, 2011 and only after attending a meeting to discuss the report with the Butler Eagle. The homeowners were not invited to this or any other meeting to discuss the report. They received a packet via UPS. This begs the questions, who was the report produced for? The homeowners or the press?
The cited report contains several serious flaws. The report clearly states that the report was solely based “on data provided to AMEC by Rex Energy” and that “AMEC inferred likely groundwater flow.” No one from AMEC ever contacted the landowners to verify well depth, date of complaints, current conditions, or to request other tests done by the homeowners or the DEP. AMEC never set foot on the properties to take a water sample nor did they oversee the sampling or the testing. Did AMEC even verify the calibration of the test equipment? How could they? The testing was done by Environmental Service Laboratories Inc. (ESL) based out of Indiana, Pa. The samples were taken and the tests completed before August of 2011 often without oversight by DEP (against the DEP agents’ wishes). The results were then sent to Rex. According to their website “ESL is a proud member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.” Is this what an “independent study” looks like? Was this report vetted by peer review and public comment? Would this report stand up in court?
Nonetheless, the result of this report and others like it is that six families in Connoquennesing Township will stop receiving potable water after the New Year, including a three-year-old girl, a newborn and, a pregnant mother and no one has stepped up to question the validity of the report. Where are our local officials? The press? The DEP?
Although REX Energy has operations in Wyoming, is unknown whether or not REX Energy is a member of PAW as PAW refuses to disclose their membership (in fact, when asked for a list of their members the PAW representative on the other end of the phone’s first response was to laugh and say, “You don’t have enough money to know that.”)
How is it that the natural gas industry demands high standards of proof and transparency from others yet hides behind secrecy, stretched-truths, and assumptions when the shoe is on the other foot?