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EPA chief's comments on fracking 'contradictory' -- Inhofe

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter

December 7, 2011

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Link to Letter 

One of hydraulic fracturing's most vocal supporters in Congress says recent comments by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson raise questions about a high-profile drinking water contamination incident in Wyoming.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a letter to Jackson today asking about her statement last month that fracturing might be linked to high levels of methane, benzene and other chemicals in wells in Pavilion, Wyo. (Greenwire, Nov. 18).

He said EPA staff had assured him previously that hydraulic fracturing was not a focus of the Pavilion investigation and that there were no significantly new data in an EPA announcement last month.

"Because of these contradictory statements, I am concerned that EPA has pre-determined that hydraulic fracturing is the cause of contamination in their Pavilion investigation and the agency is trying to make the data conform to that conclusion," Inhofe wrote.

An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a television interview last month, Jackson said, "It is possible that fracking in one bearing zone may have impacted nearby areas that may contain some groundwater."

It was the first time Jackson raised a possible link between the oil and gas industry practice of fracturing and the water pollution in Pavilion.

Encana Corp., which drills in the area's gas field, has denied the link between drilling and the contamination, saying EPA drilled its monitoring wells in a natural gas zone.