An op-ed published in the New York Times:
Recovering From Wyoming’s Energy Bender

Published: April 20, 2008
Wilson, Wyo.

FOR all its Old West mythology, Wyoming is and always will be a mining state, more roughneck than cowboy. Frankly, in a land of long winters and high winds, there aren’t a lot of other economic choices. And a powerful oil lobby reminds us with Orwellian regularity that we owe everything to oil and gas taxes, bullying those who disagree. (In February, a committee of the Wyoming Legislature rejected a spending increase for the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources after institute scientists dared to raise concerns about water produced in coal-bed methane wells.) Even so, the oilier side of our nature has never threatened to unhorse the cowboy entirely, not even now, when the pressure to develop every last seam of energy is end-of-administration intense.

Since 1996, oil and gas companies have leased from the federal government the mineral rights to nearly 27 million acres of land in the Rocky Mountain West, and Wyoming has shouldered the greatest share of that development. In the last decade, oil companies have leased a fifth to a quarter of the state’s land — 15.5 million acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management, as well of hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest and private land. If Wyoming were a country, it would be one of the largest coal-producing nations in the world, and its output of natural gas is among the greatest in American history. The argument has never been that we shouldn’t provide energy. But is that all we’re good for? And what, if anything, should we leave for future generations? These are global questions posed on a local level.


Jonah Basin, WY, 40 acre spacing

During his second term, President Bill Clinton, under pressure from a Republican Congress, leased out just as much of Wyoming’s land as the current administration has to date. The difference was that the Clinton administration enforced laws encouraging the Bureau of Land Management to “manage, protect and improve” our public lands while allowing for other values like recreation, grazing and wildlife habitat. The Bush administration, on the other hand, has lifted every possible impediment to industry.

For example, oil and gas companies are exempt from provisions of the Clean Water Act that require construction activities to reduce polluted runoff as well as from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act that regulate underground injection of chemicals. The industry is also generously permitted to drill on critical wildlife winter range (close to 90 percent of all their requests to drill on winter range have been granted). Oil rigs are drilling for natural gas on the banks of the New Fork River (the headwaters of the Colorado) and in the foothills of the Wyoming Range. Well sites in many parts of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are so closely spaced that, with roads, gas pipelines and compressor stations, the development is continuous.

Meantime, drug treatment centers and domestic abuse shelters across the state have declared themselves overwhelmed and, in spite of what the oil companies keep telling us, we’re far from happy. Wyoming has the uneasy distinction of having one of the country’s highest suicide rates. We top the national death toll on the job with 16.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. Wyoming is responsible for by far the highest percentage of deaths on the job in the interior West’s oil and gas industry. At public meetings organized by the Bureau of Land Management to announce the development of Wyoming’s public lands, oil company executives initially argued to a largely receptive audience that a new boom would be good for the state’s economy. Lately, executives have been telling increasingly unhappy communities that domestic drilling is our moral duty, an alternative to sending more soldiers to war. They imply that anything less than full support for the oil companies is un-American. But a bumper sticker on a pick-up truck hints at the truth: “The war is over. Halliburton won.”

Meanwhile, cattle and sheep ranchers and hunting and tourist guides have found themselves wondering what has happened to their Wyoming. Wildlife suffers as oil leases overlap with habitat: 14.1 million acres of sage grouse habitat, 3.2 million acres of pronghorn winter habitat, 2.9 million acres of mule deer winter habitat and 1.1 million acres of elk winter habitat. Even most of the state’s wild horse herd management areas (the only Wyoming lands on which wild horses may legally roam) are destined for oil development.

Eighty-five water wells in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have recently tested positive for hydrocarbons, indicating that toxic chemicals from drilling have leaked into the water table. Air pollution in the same area was so great this winter that vulnerable residents were warned not to venture outside. Oil companies argued that strong winds would rectify the problem.

They were right to predict a wind of change, but it came in the form of an unprecedented experiment in the art of listening. In the last few months, Terry Tempest Williams, a writer in residence at the University of Wyoming, has taken her students on the road to conduct what she calls “weather reports” in small communities. Addressing packed rooms, Ms. Williams turns the microphone over to the people of Wyoming — a stoical populace whose habitual stance against something they don’t like is a tight lip. Astonishingly, they have opened up, voicing their concerns over the rapidity and scale of the oil and gas development.

“One day, I fear I will wake up and all that will be left of Wyoming is a hole in the ground,” one resident of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem said.

Oil executives have pushed back. One oilman, State Senator Kit Jennings, took the microphone in Casper and declared that Ms. Williams had demonized the oil companies. He rejected her contention in a local newspaper article that the energy boom had helped drive up the use of crystal methamphetamine in the region and announced that he had demanded that she be fired from the university for her criticism of the industry.

Oil and gas are accustomed to dominating the debate. But Ms. Williams’s forums have created an opportunity for grass-roots rebuttal. Residents, who have so far been cowed by the enormous tax contributions that energy companies make to the state’s coffers, are upholding values not counted in dollars. “My hope is that with our backs against the wall we will finally speak up,” another weather reports participant said.

Maybe Wyomingites, justifiably proud of their roughneck heritage and anxious to keep the oil field work, have realized that this boom isn’t going away soon, and they’d like a little of Wyoming left when the oil companies move back to Texas. “We’re Mother Nature’s bodyguards,” a billboard sponsored by Sportsmen for the Wyoming Range warns. “And yes, we are heavily armed.”

Alexandra Fuller is the author of the forthcoming “The Legend of Colton H. Bryant.”


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From Wyoming, 9/10/09:

As many of you know EPA, region 8, is investigating water well contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming.  Louis and Donna Meeks have been advised to not use their well water in their home because their water well is severely contaminated.  Their well water is no longer hooked up to their house. EnCana has been furnishing the Meeks with water for over 2 years, which is hauled to their home, stored in 2 tanks, which each hold 2400 gallons, and pumped into their house.  Although Louis and Donna haul their own drinking water, the water from EnCana is for household use; washing clothes, dishes, bathing, flushing toilets, and most importantly, the hot water heating system for their home.

This morning Randy Teeuwen, EnCana, 307-851-8519, called Louis to inform him that EnCana will be removing the Meeks’ water system on Monday, Sept 14, at 9:00 AM.  The company who contracts the water tanks is H B Rentals, Riverton, WY, 307-856-9761.

Deb Thomas, Organizer
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Clark Resource Council
Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens
Clark, WY 82435

Please visit our websites at:

How does EnCana poison water sources? Here’s one possibility:

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In a story published on 8/27/09, Jon Hurdle of Reuters reports:

U.S. finds water polluted near gas-drilling sites

PHILADELPHIA, Aug 27 (Reuters) – U.S. government scientists have for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs.

The Environmental Protection Agency found chemicals that researchers say may cause illnesses including cancer, kidney failure, anemia and fertility problems in water from 11 of 39 wells tested around the Wyoming town of Pavillion in March and May this year.

. . . . .

Evidence of a link between gas drilling and water contamination would set back development of a clean-burning fuel promoted by the Obama administration as crucial to the future of U.S. energy production.

. . . . .

“There may be an indication of groundwater contamination by oil and gas activities,” said the 44-page report, which received little public attention when released on Aug. 11. “Many activities in gas well drilling (and) hydraulic fracturing … involve injecting water and other fluids into the well and have the potential to create cross-contamination of aquifers.”

Among the contaminants found in some of the wells was 2-butoyethanol, or 2-BE, a solvent used in natural gas extraction, which researchers say causes the breakdown of red blood cells, leading to blood in the urine and feces, and can damage the kidneys, liver, spleen and bone marrow.

Greg Oberley, an EPA scientist who has been testing the water samples, said the agency did not set out to prove that hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination, but was responding to complaints from local residents that their well water had become discolored or foul-smelling or tasted bad.

The investigation was the EPA’s first in response to claims that gas drilling is polluting water supplies, he said. Testing will continue.


While the EPA team has not determined how the chemicals got into the water, many are associated with gas drilling, Oberley said in a telephone interview.

“The preponderance of those compounds in the area would be attributable to the oil and gas industry,” he said.

. . . . .

John Fenton, a farmer in Pavillion, a rural community of about 150 people, said residents blame gas drilling for a range of illnesses including rare cancers, miscarriages and nervous system disorders.

Families with contaminated water wells have been advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to drink the water, which in some cases was black and oily, with a petroleum-like sheen, and a smell of gas, Fenton said.

“The stress is incredible,” Fenton told Reuters. “People have built their lives and businesses here. What’s it all worth now?”

Complete story at:

For more on this story:

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Does Schreiner’s ‘right’ to extract natural gas supersede residents’ right to clean water and safe homes?    And does the industry’s ‘right’ to process natural gas supersede the neighborhood’s right to clean air?

These folks didn’t move into this neighborhood knowing their air and water was going to be ruined. They had good water and air. Drilling and processing of (un)natural gas by someone else has taken their property.


June 9, 2009
“Our neighbor who has been out of his house for 11 weeks brought a sample of his water from his newly drilled well up to our house, and it still catches on fire- we got video again.  Plus, now there is some weird black stuff in it- it’s a little like oil but a little like charcoal or something.  Very strange.  Schreiner apparently didn’t know that our neighbor already tested his water, because he told him that he has great water now and can move back in!  I just can’t believe that.  Also, it appears that Schreiner has lied to State Representative Martin Causer’s secretary Rhonda because he told her that the Bailey family was already back in their home- definitely not true.

“Another neighbor told me that he heard that Schreiner has been kicked out of New York state and Sheffield, PA for bad practice before.  I’d sure like to try and find those details.

“Another neighbor has a new well and a reverse osmosis system, and his water is still bad.  DEP alluded to the idea that as long as they can get good water out of one tap in the house for drinking, then that will be all that Schreiner has to do.  Ridiculous.

“The stripper plant is still way too noisy and the vapors coming off of it are not getting any better.  The couple of neighbors who have detectors in their homes (I think CO2 and methane) have had the alarms go off several times.  These are issues that we are going to stress at the next township meeting on the 22nd.”


June 16, 2009
“My neighbor who has been out of his home for 12 weeks now was forced to move back in tonight.  His water still catches on fire, but Schreiner said that he’s done and won’t pay for a hotel anymore.  DEP claims that it’s perfectly safe… even though when my neighbor runs the washer there is free methane left in the machine after the laundry is done!  Unbelievable. Schreiner says he put $100,000 into addressing our problems, and even though not one house has their issues fixed, he is “done” and if we want more we just have to sue him.  He’s even been giving State Representative Causer’s secretary crap telling her to stop calling him with our complaints and that he is just going to stop answering his phone.”


DEP, why do you side with industry?

It’s time to take the oil & gas industry in hand.

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Dept. of Environmental Protection
Northwest Regional Office
230 Chestnut St.
Meadville, PA 16335


Freda Tarbell
Phone: (814) 332-6816


MEADVILLE – The Department of Environmental Protection has determined that Schreiner Oil and Gas Company has affected at least seven water supplies along Hedgehog Lane in Bradford Township, McKean County, and has notified the company of its responsibilities to those residents.
Two of the water supplies were affected by methane and five supplies have iron and manganese above established drinking water standards.

Schreiner has been actively drilling combination oil and gas wells in the area since last fall and did not establish background water quality in the area prior to drilling. Therefore, Schreiner is presumed responsible for restoring water supplies within 1,000 feet of the drill sites.

Last week DEP also issued a notice of violation to Schreiner for failure to submit well records in a timely manner, the second notice of violation that the company has received regarding this issue.

“On Thursday, we notified the affected residents that Schreiner will be taking measures to restore or replace their water supplies,” said DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch. “It is our intention that this action will resolve the water issue for residents who have been living with major inconvenience and disruption.”

At this time, the operator is providing bottle water to many of the residents in the affected area.

On April 30, DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch met with about 30 neighborhood residents to discuss their worries about water quality, concerns associated with a natural gas stripper plant installed behind some of the homes, and accelerated erosion and sedimentation associated with the drilling activity.

Previous to last week’s notice of violation, DEP had issued three notices of violation to Schreiner pertaining to drilling on Hedgehog Lane. On November 13, DEP cited Schreiner for over-pressured wells. On February 19, DEP issued a notice of violation for pit violations and failure to post a well permit. On March 20, DEP cited Schreiner for new over-pressured wells and failure to submit well records.

All of the violations were corrected except for the submission of well records.

The department assessed 17 water supplies during the investigation. One water well still has methane present and the resident currently is staying at a motel provided by Schreiner as a precaution. DEP continues to monitor the water well that was affected by this gas migration on a daily basis and has observed a decrease in the amount of natural gas evident in the water well.

The department suspects the stray gas occurrence is a result of 26 recently drilled wells, four of which had excessive pressure at the surface casing seat and others that had no cement returns. In an effort to eliminate the source of methane, Schreiner has installed packers on all hydraulically fractured wells and has vented all of the wells that have been drilled but have not been fractured to stimulate production.

Until the gas migration issue is resolved, Schreiner will not be drilling any new wells.

To address another neighborhood concern, the company has added stone to stabilize the access roads to reduce sedimentation on Hedgehog Lane. Schreiner also is seeding and mulching disturbed areas to stabilize the drilling sites and access roads to further reduce sedimentation and accelerated erosion.

For more information,, keyword: Oil and Gas.

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Community Board No. 2, Manhattan, Resolution

Environment, Public Health, and Public Safety Committee
March 18, 2009

Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York State Governor David Paterson to PROHIBIT DRILLING FOR NATURAL GAS WITHIN NEW YORK STATE.

Whereas, Natural gas exploration and production companies, and mineral rights owners, are interested in developing a potentially significant gas resource in the Marcellus Shale through the use of horizontal drilling and a hydraulic fracturing technique known as “slick water fracturing” which requires large volumes of water; and

Whereas, the State Environmental Quality Review Act requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to review the methods used while accessing this natural gas that’s located deep within the Earth; and

Whereas; We heard presentations from experts on this issue, among them: James Gennaro, Chair of New York City Council Environmental Protection Committee; Dr. Stephen Corson, Policy Analyst for Manhattan Borough President and lead author of the Borough President’s report on this issue; Jared Chasow, Legislative Aide for Senator Tom Duane; Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney for Earth Justice’s Northeast Office; Craig Michaels, Watershed Program Director for Riverkeeper; and Joe Levine, Co-founder of NY-H2O; and

Whereas, Our committee screened a film segment by Josh Fox showing recent destructive consequences/affects of this process; and

Whereas, Siobhan Watson spoke for New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and said the Speaker was keenly aware of this issue and hasn’t taken a position yet; and

Whereas, Matthew Borden spoke for New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick to say she is entirely opposed to this dangerous drilling activity and he distributed copies of her public testimony on the matter; and

Whereas, over 70 people attended this Public Hearing, including board members of Manhattan Community Boards 3, 6, & 7; and

Whereas, Hydraulic Fracturing mixes water with sand and 250+ toxic chemicals; and

Whereas, the 2005 Energy Policy Act exempts companies who employ Hydraulic Fracturing methods from having to comply with many public health laws which were specifically written to protect our natural resources and well being (e.g. Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-know Act); and

Whereas, Chapter 376 of the Laws of New York State of 2008 streamlined the permitting process for horizontal wells that use hydraulic fracturing, allowing the development of natural gas drilling sites within Marcellus Shale in New York to proceed more quickly; and

Whereas, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Mineral Resources, Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation held scoping hearings upstate for a Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, but failed to hold any hearings within New York City despite the fact 90% of our water supply comes from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds; and

Whereas, Chemicals contained in hydraulic fracturing fluids cause a variety of irreversible and catastrophic damages to the air, water, public health, wildlife, and integrity of local communities; and

Whereas, Hydraulic fracturing presents risks of water contamination during drilling operations and during the storage and disposal of millions of gallons of the water and chemical additive mixture required for each well that is created; and

Whereas, Hydraulic fracturing has resulted in contaminated water supplies in other states, including Wyoming and New Mexico; and

Whereas, No amount of careful planning and operation can guarantee that there will be no chemical spills that could flow into reservoirs, underground migration of fracturing fluids toward the water supply, or other accidents resulting from drilling operations; and

Whereas, If the water supply should be contaminated, the City of New York would be required by the Environmental Protection Agency to build and operate a water filtration plant, the cost of which has been estimated to be approximately $10 billion, which would be borne by New York City taxpayers; and

Whereas, Absolutely no evidence has been shown by any organization that fluids used during Hydraulic Fracturing can be completely filtered out of drinking water; and

Whereas, Council Member Gennaro has introduced Resolution No.1850 in the New York City Council that calls for a ban for drilling within our Watershed Area; and

Whereas, There is no possible remedy once contamination has occurred; and

Therefore let it be resolved, this method for accessing natural gas is FAR TOO DANGEROUS to the air, water, public health, wildlife and integrity of local communities to be approved by any Federal or New York State entity; and

Therefore be it further resolved, Manhattan Community Board 2 calls on the New York State Legislature, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York State Governor David Paterson to prohibit Hydraulic Fracturing drilling for natural gas within New York State.

Committee vote: Unanimous approval
Full board vote: Unanimous approval

Respectfully submitted,

Jason Mansfield
Chair, Environment, Public Safety, Public Health Committee

Brad Hoylman
Chair, Manhattan Community Board 2


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For Immediate Release: March 19th, 2009

For More Information:
Jennifer Goldman, Public Health & Toxics Campaign Director , 406-587-4473
Bonnie Gestring, Circuit Rider, 406-549-7361
Deb Thomas, Clark, WY, 307-645-3236

TRI highlights need for regulation of nation’s largest mercury polluter

Metal mining maintains position as nation’s #1 toxic polluter

Mar 19, Washington, D.C. — Today the Environmental Protection Agency published the most recent Toxics Release Inventory. Once again the nation’s largest polluter is the metal mining industry: of 4.09 billion pounds of toxics reported, 1.15 billion pounds were released by mining — more than 28% by just one industry.

Unfortunately, one of the most serious threats to our nation’s drinking water supply is left unknown. Oil & gas producers do not have to report under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA), the legislation authorizing TRI.

“Due to increasing energy demand, drilling for oil & gas now occurs in 34 states including New York and Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Goldman, Public health and toxics director of EARTHWORKS’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She continued, “communities nationwide are impacted, yet they’re in the dark because drillers don’t have to report the toxics they release.”

“My community’s drinking water is supplied by wells, some of which are now polluted by a gas well underground explosion,” said Deb Thomas, a community organizer from Clark, Wyoming. She continued, “at least twenty-five wells are in the path of a toxic groundwater plume as a result. It’s very challenging to address the contamination without any forewarning — what TRI provides — about the drilling toxics that we now know threaten our drinking water.”

The power of the Toxics Release Inventory has revealed the extent of the threat of mercury mining pollution. According the TRI, metal mining accounted for 90% of all reported mercury releases, 6.22 million pounds.

Although the mining industry is a significant source of mercury air pollution, there are no federal regulations that require mines to reduce mercury air emissions. A recent court decision requires the EPA to initiate a rule-making by August 15, 2009.

“It makes no sense that the mining industry gets a pass, when there are federal regulations requiring the other major industries to cut emissions to deal with the nation’s mercury problem,” said Bonnie Gestring, EARTHWORKS’ Northwest Circuit Rider.

EARTHWORKS is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development, in the U.S. and worldwide.

1612 K ST. N.W. / SUITE 808 / WASHINGTON, D.C. 20006 / P 202 887 1872 F 202 887 1875 / WWW.EARTHWORKSACTION.ORG

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I finally heard from the DEP about the results of testing they did of my water and well. I do have methane, but lower in level than some of my neighbors whose wells have exploded, etc. He said he will stop by to check for free methane in the head space of my water well again, now that we have it capped loosely enough to remove. I asked him if the level of methane could increase now that they are fracking the well on the other side of my house, and he said it is possible, with all of the activity going on. He is finding some methane in almost all the wells around here. This seems consistent with the idea that it can migrate for miles through an aquifer. The contaminated wells that I know of in Dimock are in clumps, with apparently ok houses with wells between them. I definitely need to test for bacteria. Today I accidentally drank some water and got violently sick. That’s how it was for the months of December and November last year, for our whole family, which was when they were drilling and fracking  the gas well 500 feet from our water well. We stopped drinking the water after our next door neighbor noticed her water smelled strongly of solvents or formaldehyde, and the lady about 5 houses away had her water well explode.

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