Cabot Accuses EPA of Cherry Picking Old Water Test Data

cherry pickingCabot Oil & Gas has accused the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of “cherry picking” old water test data to justify its intrusion into Dimock, PA. For a quick backgrounder on the situation in Dimock and why Cabot is being blamed by some for pollution of a handful of local water wells in the area, see this MDN story.

Cabot Oil & Gas Co., whose drilling was blamed for the pollution, said that the drinking-water tests the Environmental Protection Agency used to justify its Jan. 19 order to deliver fresh water supplies to four Dimock houses "do not accurately represent the water quality" and are inconsistent with the body of data collected at the residences.

Cabot disputed the EPA’s finding that the water well of one house had excessive levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring carcinogen. Cabot said none of the four houses had high levels of arsenic. It said the data that EPA cited apparently came from a test of a public water system, unrelated to well-drilling.

Another house had elevated sodium levels, but Cabot said the EPA cited data from a 2008 test when the residence had in place a water-softening system, which treats water by adding sodium. Cabot said more recent tests showed less sodium than in the public water the EPA started delivering to the four residents last month by truck.

"Based on this re-examination, it appears that EPA selectively chose data on substances it was concerned about in order to reach a result it had predetermined," the company said.(1)

The EPA claims the federal Superfund law allows them to get involved in the Dimock investigation, but some criticize the EPA role as being politically motivated—they are on a witch hunt to try and create a connection between high volume hydraulic fracturing and chemical contamination of well water—which would ultimately empower the EPA to start regulating the practice. The Obama EPA wants to regulate oil and gas drilling throughout the country via the back door of regulating fracking.

Being stung by criticism that they are interfering in a matter that properly should be left to the state of Pennsylvania, the EPA responded:

"States have important front-­line responsibilities in permitting natural gas extraction, and we respect and support their efforts," they wrote. "But EPA likewise has important oversight responsibilities and acts as a critical backstop when public health or the environment may be at risk."(2)

And the (Dimock) beat goes on…

(1) The Philadelphia Inquirer (Feb 1, 2012) – Marcellus Shale gas-drilling company says EPA used faulty pollution data

(2) Wilkes-Barre The Citizens’ Voice (Feb 1, 2012) – Cabot raises new questions about EPA data in Dimock