Weatherford Democrat

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January 17, 2013

Altering the Flow

EPA changed course after oil company protested in long-standing legal battle over gas-tainted water supply

(Continued)

The confidential report relied on a type of testing known as isotopic analysis, which produces a unique chemical fingerprint that sometimes allows researchers to trace the origin of gas or oil.

Jackson, who studies hydraulic fracturing and specializes in isotopic analysis, acknowledged that more data is needed to determine for certain where the gas came from. But even if the gas came from elsewhere, Range Resources’ drilling could have contributed to the problem in Lipsky’s water because gas migrates, he added.

The company insists the gas in Lipsky’s water is from natural migration and not drilling. Range Resources’ testing indicates the gas came from a different rock formation called Strawn shale and not the deeper Barnett shale, Poole said.

In addition, he said, isotopic analysis cannot be used in this case because the chemical makeup of the gases in the two formations is indistinguishable. A Range Resources spokesman also dismissed Thyne and Jackson as anti-industry.

Range Resources has not shared its data with the EPA or the Railroad Commission. Poole said the data is proprietary and could only be seen by Houston-based Weatherford Laboratories, where it originated. It was analyzed for Range Resources by a Weatherford scientist, Mark McCaffrey, who did not respond to requests for an interview.

Gas has always been in the water in that area, Poole said. And years before Range Resources began drilling, at least one water well in the neighborhood contained so much methane, it went up in flames.

At another home with dangerously high methane levels in the water, the company insisted the gas had been there since the well was first dug many years ago. The homeowner was not aware of anything wrong until Range Resources began drilling in 2009.

Jackson said it was “unrealistic” to suggest that people could have tainted water and not notice.

“It bubbles like champagne or mineral waters,” he said. “The notion that people would have wells and have this in their water and not see this is wrong.”

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Dallas, Allen Breed in Raleigh, N.C., and Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pa., contributed to this report.

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