Racetrack Owner Wants New Look At Fracking Effects by Matthew Perlman, February 3, 2016, Law360
Jeffrey Gural, who owns the Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs racinos in New York, filed an appeal Wednesday questioning the results of water supply tests conducted by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection for an equestrian facility he owns in the state after the agency found it was not affected by fracking.
Gural, who also leases the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and is the chairman of real estate advisory firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, filed the appeal with Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board along with his wife, Paula. The couple is questioning the results of tests completed by the DEP on the water supply of their property in Bradford County, which they use for breeding horses.
The Gurals said they notified the DEP of potential problems with their water in May, after noticing that a high percentage of the foals born at the facility over the past several years were experiencing health problems. They said the issue started shortly after a fracking operation commenced on an adjacent property.
“When the fracking started, we started having problems with the horses,” Jeffrey Gural told Law360 on Wednesday. “One of our thoughts is that the fracking could have caused it.”
The Gurals point to a well operated by a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corp. as a possible cause, and said the DEP may have missed something when it found their water was not contaminated by the oil and gas producer.
“It is possible that substances used by Chesapeake but not sampled for could be associated with and be the cause of the health problems suffered by the foals on the Gurals’ property,” the appeal said. “The department’s determination was based solely on limited sampling data and did not consider, among other things, whether there was any hydrogeologic connection between the Gurals’ water supply and gas activity at Chesapeake’s well pad.”
The DEP informed the Gurals of its findings in a December letter, which said tests did show elevated levels of certain contaminants in the water and noted that the sample it collected was discolored and emitted a sulfur smell. But, the agency said, it could not link these problems with activities at Chesapeake’s well. [No lookie, no linkie]
“While the department did not determine that oil and gas activities polluted your water supply, please do note that your water quality does not meet (i.e., is worse than) health and/or aesthetic statewide standards,” the agency’s letter said.
In responding to their inquiry, the Gurals said the agency failed to even ask Chesapeake about what substances it uses at the well or if any spills had occurred at the operation. It also failed to investigate potential impacts to other water supplies in the immediate area.
“The department acted arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably by failing to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation in response to the Gurals’ May 15, 2015, notification,” the appeal said.
Gural, who said he’s been breeding horses for more than 25 years, has now installed an extensive filtration system at the property, which he hopes will prevent more horses from becoming sick. But, he added, he still wants to know what caused the contamination.
“The appeal was filed simply because we don’t know enough,” he said.
The Pennsylvania DEP declined to comment Wednesday. Chesapeake Energy did not respond to a request for comment. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Rancher Howard Hawkwood with one of his many dead cows after fracing nearby in the Lochend, just outside Calgary, Alberta