Mead Gruver

CHEYENNE, WYO.: New samples from beneath a Wyoming gas field where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency linked hydraulic fracturing to groundwater pollution seem unlikely to sway hearts and minds on a nationwide debate over the contentious issue. The additional data isn’t a whole lot different, or more substantial, compared to what the EPA detected previously.

Calgary, Canada-based Encana, which owns the gas field in the Pavillion area in west-central Wyoming, still says the EPA research was flawed and, so too, last year’s finding that implicated the petroleum industry technique.

An environmental group still says Pavillion shows more regulation is needed for fracking, the practice of blasting of millions of gallons of water and smaller amounts of sand and chemicals down well holes to force open new fissures.

“This newest information reinforces our concerns that fracking may be putting our drinking water and health at risk,” said Kate Sinding, with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s why it’s so critical we get safeguards on the books to protect Americans from dangerous drilling practices.”

The Pavillion field has shallow gas and geology much different from other gas fields. Fracking occurred unusually close to home water wells, and the EPA has said that any findings in the area shouldn’t be applied to fracking in general.

Even so, Pavillion now is widely associated with fracking. People with significant concerns about or a stake in fracking scoured the new U.S. Geological Survey data, released Wednesday, that was collected in partnership with the state of Wyoming, the EPA and two American Indian tribes.

The EPA drew its findings last year from two wells it drilled to test for pollution and this year’s study sought to resample both wells. The USGS released the new data without any analysis.

“These groundwater investigations are kind of a tricky business. You don’t always get these super-conclusive results with, you know, just a couple rounds of sampling from two wells,” said David Yoxtheimer, of Penn State.