Public Herald’s Melissa Troutman & Josh Pribanic report on their 3 year investigation of Pennsylvania DEP records on thousands of cases of water contamination from fracking. There are now calls for a Criminal Investigation at the state and federal level into why so many of these cases have been brushed aside or concealed from public view.
[Criminal investigation is also required in Canada and Alberta, not only of the regulators engaging in fraud concealing from public view the many cases of drinking water contamination caused by frac’ing, but also the many oil and gas industry lobby groups (eg CAPP, SPOG, Synergy Alberta), research agencies (eg Alberta Research Council, The Council of Canadian Academies), academics and “experts” helping the regulators cover them up]
Transcribed from the clip:
By the time we publish at the end of this year, we have over 5,000 complaints
We started to see that there are systematic ways that DEP is keeping all of this hidden.
Many many water contamination cases are kept hidden. They’re kept off the public record. We published initially nine different ways DEP is doing this. Our upcoming report, we have even more ways DEP is keeping water contamination hidden.
I asked for all the complaint records. … DEP said all complaint records were confidential. So they denied my request. So I asked the attorney who sent the letter denying my request, the DEP attorney, why complaints were confidential. They’re essentially part of a public record of a public agency, you can simply redact something, take out personal information. But why are complaints confidential?
The [DEP] attorney’s response was because we don’t want them to cause alarm.
So, obviously, that’s how we knew we had to have them.
Finally, they gave us those records. We went into the office and started to scan them. And that was 2013. And we did not stop scanning them until last week.
It was outrageous. The amount of effort, time, manpower just to get all of the drinking water contamination complaints that had been submitted to DEP based on fracking out of that office so that the public can see it.
[Audience applause, cheers]
What was extremely shocking to us, when [the EPA 2015 frack] report came out and when our report came out was that the EPA made a conscious decision to not include all of these thousands of cases for Pennsylvania when they made that decision about frac’ing being safe or not safe for drinking water supplies.
[Like Dr. John Cherry and the Council of Canadian Academies frac report excluding all the evidence Ernst compiled in her 2013 brief on water contamination cases caused by frac’ing in Canada?]
Conscious decision to exclude all of those cases. Exclude Dimock, exclude Pavillion Wyoming, exclude the cases in Colorado and Texas.
So now we’re really worried about it. It’s not just a state-wide problem, now it seems to be a federal problem and it’s absolutely shocking.
And then we go and look at the EPA case and we see where they found doubt about whether or not fracking is impacting water because there’s no background condition and we see they spent a lot of time on the Chesapeake…case that we just showed you where Chesapeake eliminated the pre-drill test and said that the post-drill was always the way [the water] was. The EPA cited that case throughout that report, with respect to whether or not fracking is safe for drinking water supplies. And they backed the company’s decision.
… We went back to that house every single year to talk to that guy to see what was going on with his water. In 2014, we found out that Chesapeake came in, they took out his $25,000 reverse osmosis treatment system. Now all of a sudden, he wants to open up to us more about what’s going on with his water.
2015, we go back and we talk to him and he tells us that he’s been working with the company to make a backdoor deal settlement. He made the settlement with the company for contaminating his water supply and taking out the treatment system.
Public Herald’s Josh Pribanic
[He] donated half of it to the church, used the rest for himself.
So, we’ve got a guy who’s sitting here with a paycheck from a company for contamination to his water supply. And we’ve got a federal report saying it didn’t happen. And then we’ve got state officials not putting it on the public record on their list of cases.
So we said, “We’ve had enough. We can’t handle this any longer.”
Somebody gets Melissa a spot to speak before the Science Advisory Board who is reviewing the EPA’s decision on this federal study.
[Melissa] tells them that the Public Herald’s calling for a federal criminal investigation of the PA DEP and the US EPA based on their mishandling of these drinking water contamination cases across Pennsylvania.
And that was basically our final nail in the coffin with this report. We felt that we had enough of a body of evidence to prove wrong-doing at the state-federal level. That we could hold a congressional hearing. Bring the inspectors in, bring the supervisors in, bring the administrators in, and figure out who’s to blame….
Public Herald’s Melissa Troutman presenting to US EPA SAB (Science Advisory Board)
I’m here to request a federal investigation of the US EPA and PA DEP for ignoring evidence that clearly shows contamination of drinking water related to the development of shale oil and gas that has impacted residents of Pennsylvania for years, subjecting them to illness and disease and exposure to toxins through their drinking water.
Five years of investigations at Public Herald have revealed that there’s substantially more water contamination in Pennsylvania than EPA or PA DEP have acknowledged in favour of deluded and blatantly false conclusions about the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas
Any assessment of how wide-spread the impacts of fracking are to drinking water should start with an evaluation of water contamination cases [exactly what Dr. John Cherry and his “expert” Council of Canadian Academies frac panel also ignored?] and include all water contamination clusters, not just Dimock. Pennsylvania DEP gives the impression that they do this by publishing a PDF online that lists all of the cases DEP has confirmed of water contamination, however these are far from all the water contamination cases that actually exist. [AER won’t even publicly publish one drinking water contamination case caused by frac’ing]
These data maps that we have published at publicfiles.org show were water pollution clusters have occurred, cases that specific officials at DEP have knowingly kept hidden.
The number of contamination cases is far greater than the 278 that DEP has confirmed.
Public Herald has analyzed over 200 cases in five key townships where clusters have occurred to find that PA DEP has nine ways that it systematically keeps water contamination cases off the books. One of theses ways is by simply dismissing clean pre-drill tests [Like Alberta regulators, Encana, and Alberta Research Council did] which is highly unscientific.
If EPA had reviewed the 2,309 cases obtained by our news room and released in September 2015, we’d be sitting here discussing how best to place the field workers, administrative staff and supervisors at PA DEP who knowingly put the public in harm’s way by neglecting their duties and using politics instead of science to make decisions. The data in these complaint records clearly shows a trail and pattern of impacts to drinking water but also a pattern of regulatory indifference, neglect, partiality and bias to the industry. These records when analyzed with the intent to protect the public health and environment prove the DEP has acted criminally.
The DEP allowed drinking water supplies to be contaminated with permits from their office, then, when made aware of that contamination, allowed the pollution, poisons and toxic water to be kept off the books is no less criminal than the acts perpetuated by officials now facing criminal charges for the water crisis in Flint Michigan. For eight years, DEP has knowingly suppressed, withheld and covered-up hundreds of water contamination cases in Pennsylvania – that we know of.
In this room, sit industry officials who’ve happily sat back to have families sign non-disclosure agreement after non-disclosure agreement while DEP shrouds the public from this data. … These companies are afforded some of the best economic protections in America, where they are allowed to contaminate aquifer after aquifer, and still be granted new permits only months after these violations
[Just like in Alberta, where the regulator’s outside legal counsel Glenn Solomon
admitted on tape how water contamination cases caused by frac companies are settled and “shut up” to keep the “regulator off their back” issuing more permits to the polluting companies so they “get to do it again down the street.”
End Alberta comparison]
And this doesn’t mean EPA is off the hook. Just as in Flint, both state and federal agencies are wading in evidence without acting on it. How many Dimock cases does the EPA think there are in 2,309 water contamination complaints. And how many does there need to be for EPA to act, where the declare the state regulatory agency incapable of performing its duties?
How many cases need to be in these records for the federal government to open a criminal investigation of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection?
Summary by Bob Donnan