In January 2012, the Star-Telegram reported (Download Richter testimony) that a former Texas Railroad Commission engineer offered an explanation into how Fort Worth-based Range Resources could have contaminated a Parker County resident's well. That information resurfaced Wednesday when EnergyWire cited petroleum engineer Thomas H. Richter's affidavit as a piece of evidence ignored by the Environmental Protection Agency when it withdrew an emergency order against Range over the wells.
The EPA's sudden and largely unexplained withdrawal of its order last March has continued to attract news coverage. The Associated Press reported last month that the EPA had a confidential report that said methane in Lipsky's well "could have originated from Range's wells," but still dropped its action. Earlier this month, EnergyWire, an online news service covering energy and environmental topics, reported that former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell lobbied EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Range's behalf. The latest EnergyWire report largely recounts Richter's theory, but in the context of the EPA dropping its order against Range.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella called the EnergyWire story "a retread of a story fully addressed two years ago" when the Texas Railroad Commission held a hearing on the Parker County wells. Neither the EPA nor Lipsky participated in the hearing, and the Railroad Commission found that Range was not responsible for Lipsky's contaminated well. While Richter didn't make his affidavit until December 2011, months after the commission's hearing, the points he raised were brought up and considered by the agency's examiners, Pitzarella said.
In short, Richter's affidavit, made on Lipsky's behalf, concludes that Range's wells should have been cemented deeper than they were, and that flaw was allowing natural gas from shallower formations to migrate upward into the water table. Railroad Commission examiners also found that the gas in Lipsky's well was from one of those shallower formations called the Strawn. But they ruled that Range's wells were not leaking and were not the source of the gas in the well.
Pitzarella points out that the EPA and the confidential report cited by the Associated Press both said the gas in Lipsky's well came from the Barnett, while Richter's says it came from other formations. They can't both be right, he said.
-- Jim Fuquay