Chesapeake Official Disputes EPA's Report on Pavilion, Wyo.
Below is an email sent to all Chesapeake employees Monday morning by the company’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Dixon. Dixon describes how he thinks the EPA’s research is flawed, and says the chemicals found in their test wells are naturally occurring.
Dear Fellow CHK Employees:
By now many of you have read or seen the media coverage of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s draft report claiming evidence of fracking contamination of groundwater near several of EnCana Corporation’s wells in Pavillion, Wyoming. The Pavillion Field was first discovered in the 1960’s and has been developed over time since then using conventional vertical drilling techniques. I am writing to assure you that the media has missed several key facts about this draft report. Meanwhile, despite minimal regional, geological and hydrological knowledge and after years of properly delegating industry oversight to state regulatory agencies, the EPA appears to be attempting to gain regulatory oversight of our industry. We believe that in their haste to find even one exception to the industry’s sterling record of responsible hydraulic fracturing, the EPA has compromised its well testing and data gathering protocols.
In my position, I regularly speak to my counterparts in our industry. When discussing this matter with industry sources, I have learned that the EPA’s test results should not be surprising as the two monitoring wells used to collect samples were drilled into hydrocarbon-bearing zones. As you know, elevated levels of methane and other petroleum related compounds, such as benzene, are naturally occurring in such zones. The bottom line is fracking did not put them there, nature did. Furthermore, when the EPA tested existing domestic water wells in the area, they found no indication of any oil and gas impacts. Only when they drilled their own, much deeper monitoring well did they encounter the hydrocarbons.
It is important to note that throughout the report the Agency hedges its bets by regularly using words such as “likely” or “might” before addressing key findings. In fact, the EPA’s own press release announcing the report says, “the draft report indicates that groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.” Unfortunately, many in the news media either inadvertently or intentionally missed this nuance and reported a direct causal link between hydraulic fracturing and the compounds detected in two EPA-drilled monitoring wells.
I also think it is important to point out that this draft report has not yet been subjected to the standard scrutiny of a scientific peer review, and its alleged “findings” will almost assuredly not withstand that process. The way this release was handled seems to any objective observer to point to the EPA being more interested in their PR strategy and in establishing a connection between hydraulic fracturing and water contamination than in finding the truth.
While Chesapeake does not operate in this area, this incident is an important reminder to all of us. Our industry is constantly under the microscope from this federal agency that would like nothing more than to find a reason to justify giving the federal government more regulatory oversight. As the most active driller in our industry, much of that attention will fall on our company. This reality further underscores the need for every employee, in all departments, to continue to operate under Chesapeake’s guidelines and uphold the highest standards of care and integrity. Our operations team, the drilling group, and our regulatory team continue to work 24/7/365 to ensure that Chesapeake meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements and continues to lead best practices in our industry. The result of our efforts will continue to revolutionize our industry and reinvigorate our economy.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns and feel free to share with others.