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Groups want broad EPA probe of tainted Texas water

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 5:35 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

HOUSTON (AP) — More than 80 environmental groups on Monday demanded a broad investigation into whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency behaved improperly when it abruptly dropped enforcement actions against a gas driller it had accused of contaminating water in Texas.

The 86 groups from 12 states sent a letter to the EPA's inspector general, Arthur Elkins, asking that he widen an existing investigation into the agency's actions. They cited an Associated Press report indicating the agency had scientific evidence linking Range Resources' drilling operations to water tainted with explosive methane and cancer-causing benzene in Weatherford, a town west of Fort Worth.

Range Resources has said the EPA dropped its demands that the company provide affected families with clean water and locate the source of the contamination after the company threatened not to cooperate with a high-profile national study into hydraulic fracturing.

The groups, including Greenpeace, the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Biological Diversity, said the EPA's actions make it "appear that the agency is abdicating its legal obligation to protect the health and environment of all Americans."

The groups note that when the EPA dropped its enforcement actions and ended a legal battle with Range Resources, it did not mention an analysis done by Geoffrey Thyne, an independent scientist who was hired by the agency to analyze water samples it collected from more than 30 water wells in the Weatherford area. Thyne had concluded that the gas found in the water wells was similar to the gas Range Resources was producing from the Barnett shale rock formation.

Thyne's document, obtained by the AP, has never been made public by the EPA. The inspector general should consider in his investigation why the EPA made no mention of that study when critics said the actions against Range Resources lacked scientific credibility, the environmental groups' letter argued.

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