While speaking at a meeting of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 5, Wyoming’s top oil and gas supervisor Tom Doll said he believes Pavillion area residents are motivated by greed in the ongoing groundwater contamination investigation.
On Wednesday June 6, Environment & Energy reporter Mike Soraghan quoted Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supervisor Tom Doll saying, “I really believe greed is driving a lot of this. … I think they’re just looking to be compensated.”
(View Tom Doll’s presentation below in DocumentCloud.)
According to the E&E story, Doll went on to suggest that state officials have “concluded” that the contamination found in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation actually came from the drilling of EPA’s own monitoring wells, and that the EPA had predetermined that it would blame hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — as the cause of contaminated drinking water.
Renny MacKay, press secretary to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, told WyoFile that the governor could not comment immediately because he was in China, 14 hours ahead of the Mountain Standard Time zone.
Regarding Doll’s comments in the E&E story, MacKay told WyoFile, “I’m shocked, personally.”
Later on June 6, MacKay issued this statement:
“The statements made by Supervisor Doll do not reflect the view of this Administration. Governor Mead has directed state agencies and their staffs to assure an open and transparent process to address the concerns of Pavillion area residents. The comments made by Mr. Doll are contrary to the Governor’s expectation,” MacKay said. “Governor Mead is committed to ensuring that residents in the Pavillion area have clean drinking water. It is premature to draw conclusions about the outcome of the current scientific investigation, which will be informed by sampling and analysis of the EPA’s deep monitor wells. Governor Mead continues to say Wyoming will be led by the science.”
Doll issued his own statement at 5 p.m. June 6.
“I sincerely apologize for my inappropriate and inconsiderate remarks; and my comments about conclusions I have drawn which were premature because the scientific investigation to address the concerns of the Pavillion area residents is ongoing,” Doll said. “The State and citizens of the State demand that I am objective in this investigation and any other investigation of impacts to the public health and safety.”
Contacted by WyoFile on June 6, Pavillion area resident John Fenton said Doll’s earlier comments in Vancouver “show a complete lack of integrity on his part.”
Fenton said that while Doll and other state officials seem focused on protecting the oil and gas industry, there are dozens of Wyoming residents fighting for their livelihoods, their homes, and added, “we’re fighting for our lives.”
“He only cares for industry. He’s not there working for the people of Wyoming. … To keep him as administrator of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would be a great disservice to the people of Wyoming,” Fenton said.
Doll was appointed Oil and Gas Commission supervisor in March 2009 by then Gov. Dave Freudenthal, with a beginning annual salary of $140,400. Prior to taking the position, Doll had served as manager for Williams Production Co., overseeing the company’s coal-bed methane gas operations in the Powder River Basin from 1997 to 2008.
Rift over EPA findings
Doll’s comments at the Vancouver event last week appear to escalate an ongoing rift over the Pavillion groundwater pollution investigation, with state officials and Pavillion field operator EnCana Oil & Gas USA on one side, and Pavillion area residents, EPA, and industry watchdog groups on the other. At the center of the controversy is a December 2011 draft report by EPA suggesting that chemicals commonly used in fracking indeed contributed to contaminated drinking water in a rural area outside Pavillion.
After the EPA’s preliminary data was made public in November, Gov. Mead asked EPA to delay the release of its draft report and, according to a May 2012 Associated Press report, the state immediately began formulating a plan to discredit EPA’s suggested groundwater pollution link to fracking. The AP report released email exchanges among state officials, including Doll, that suggested great concern over the potential damage to the oil and gas industry, which has become almost completely reliant on hydraulic fracturing technology.
Following the AP report, a group of Pavillion area residents called upon Gov. Mead to renounce statements made by state-level employees regarding the ongoing groundwater contamination investigation in their neighborhood. Among other things, they asked the governor to consider taking corrective action — including possible termination — against state employees who may have failed to meet the mission statements of their respective departments in pursuing the matter.
In a May 22, 2012, letter to the governor, the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens (PACC), representing 55 area residents, charged that the state “not only ignored its mandates, it organized and conducted a campaign to discredit the on-going EPA Pavillion groundwater contamination investigation and postponed the release of scientific conclusions that Wyoming citizens need to protect their health and well being.”
The PACC letter, signed by Pavillion area resident John Fenton, stated, “Agency directors are quoted with worrying about how investigation results will affect state revenues instead of Wyoming citizens’ health.”
Reached before Gov. Mead departed for a trip to China, press secretary Renny MacKay told WyoFile that the governor had not had time to respond to PACC members.
In an earlier interview with WyoFile regarding the PACC letter, Pavillion area resident John Fenton said the group wants a public statement by the governor indicating that state officials will place emphasis on helping Wyoming citizens over the welfare of the oil and gas industry.
“In their mission statements, it doesn’t mention looking after the welfare of oil and gas companies,” Fenton said. “It [the PACC letter] asks them to admit that they haven’t done their job correctly. I think for them to cooperate with EPA, they should acknowledge the fact that they were asleep at the wheel.”
This year, Wyoming lawmakers set aside $750,000 to install cisterns (water tanks) for 35 homes. For several years, EnCana has paid for a water delivery service to many of those homes.
CORRECTION: This story was updated June 7 to correct information regarding the timing of the release of EPA data, which was made available to both state officials and the public in November 2011.
UPDATE: Below is “EPA and Pavillion, Wyoming Groundwater Study,” a presentation by Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supervisor Tom Doll on June 5, 2012, at the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s mid-year meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. (6/11/12)
— View the presentation “Hydraulic Fracturing in Wyoming; HF 101 March 2012,” by Tom Doll, in which Doll claims, “RISK OF GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION FROM HYDRAULIC FRACTURING IS APPROXIMATELY EQUAL TO DYING FROM FALLING OUT OF BED.”
— Click here to view a 2011 Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission update on the Pavillion groundwater contamination investigation.
— Below is the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens’ May 22, 2012, letter to Gov. Matt Mead:
— Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at 307-577-6069 or [email protected].
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