Emails reveal former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell stepped in on behalf of Range Resources, to press the EPA to settle a case about methane migration in Texas, back in 2011. EnergyWire published a piece today, using information gained from a Freedom of Information Act request about the high profile methane migration case in Parker County Texas.
An EPA attorney wrote that Rendell, acting as a “spokesman for Range,” met with [EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson in 2011 and “proposed certain terms to the administrator.” But the case didn’t settle for more than a year after that.
When EPA and Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., dropped the case, Range did not agree to do testing sought by the Texas-based EPA officials. They had wanted Range to test whether natural gas might be seeping into homes from the soil, but that was not part of the agreement.
Then-head of EPA Region 6 Al Armendariz began pursuing the case against Range Resources in December 2010.
His emergency order charged that Range’s shale gas wells were leaking methane gas into two homes in the Silverado subdivision in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth. It also accused the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas but not trains, of failing to protect the homeowners in the neighborhood.
Range denied the accusations then and denies them now. On Monday, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella stressed that EPA headquarters officials didn’t just settle the case, they abandoned it.
“We’re pleased that once EPA headquarters became engaged and they reviewed the facts and science they decided to not settle the case, but to fully withdraw their order,” Pitzarella said. “This is consistent with state regulators who also determined Range to not cause or contribute to a long-standing, well-documented matter of naturally occurring methane.”
Pitzarella also told Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan that Gov. Rendell never served as a representative for the company. Texas-based Range Resources drilled the first Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania and with almost 900 currently drilled wells, it’s one of the most active drillers in the state.
But as Gov. Rendell was meeting with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to advocate for Range, in public, he began to criticize drillers. At the September 2011 industry conference in Philadelphia, “Shale Insight,” Rendell admonished industry representatives to ignore the environmentalists protesting outside the walls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center at their own peril.
“The things they’re talking about are not incorrect,” Rendell said. “They’re raising serious and legitimate issues. They express the fears of not just a few militants, but the fears of a lot of good, hard-working Pennsylvanians. About what’s going to happen to their neighborhood. About what’s going to happen to their water supply. About what’s going to happen to their waterways. Those are things that we can’t continue to ignore.”
Gov. Rendell has since told StateImpact Pennsylvania that he supports a current moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin.