Thyne had already reviewed some data for the EPA after it opened its investigation in 2010, but in recent months he did a more thorough analysis. Now, after a preliminary review, Thyne said he is more convinced the gas in at least three of the water wells originates in the Barnett shale — the rock layer from which Range Resources is extracting gas — and is identical to what is found in the company’s well bore.
At first glance, it may appear that the gas in the Strawn and Barnett layers are indistinguishable, “but in fact, people are able to notice subtle differences,” Thyne said.
The case began in 2010 when homeowner Steve Lipsky, who lives in an upscale subdivision in Weatherford, complained to the Railroad Commission that his water was bubbling.
The agency found methane in Lipsky’s water. Lipsky, afraid his family could be in danger and that the Railroad Commission was not working fast enough, contacted the EPA. Methane can be explosive if it builds up in a confined space and has an ignition source.
The EPA ruled the gas in Lipsky’s water was likely coming from Range Resources’ well site in a wooded area about a mile from the family’s home. The company used hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” — a method of pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into the ground to break up hard rock — to drill the two wells that were later sold to Legend Natural Gas.
The EPA issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 demanding that Range Resources resolve the problem and supply Lipsky’s family with water. But in March 2011 the Railroad Commission ruled Range Resources was not to blame. Range agreed, and refused to comply with the EPA’s order, which landed the company in court.
Range settled in March 2012 and the EPA withdrew its order. The company agreed to conduct testing for a year.