Encana asks EPA to extend comment period on Pavillion draft report

Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to extend the time period for accepting comments on EPA’s draft report about whether hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion field natural gas wells might be responsible for odd odor and taste in drinking water around Pavillion, Wyo.

In a Jan. 6 letter to Paul Antastas, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Research and Development, Encana asked the EPA to suspend and then restart the comment period, now scheduled to expire Jan. 27.

EPA “is moving too quickly” with its public comment and peer-review process on the Pavillion report, John Schopp, vice-president for Encana's Northern Rockies operations, wrote. He is asking for some clarification of the intention of the comment period and also seeks more information from EPA.

On Dec. 8, 2011, EPA released a draft report saying groundwater “contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.” EPA plans to submit its draft report to a scientific peer review panel, which has yet to be established.

“Encana does not believe the data currently available establish a connection between hydraulic fracturing and chronic, water palatability concerns in Pavillion field,” Schopp wrote in his Jan. 6 letter.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, other state officials, and Encana representatives have questioned EPA’s methodology and conclusions. Petroleum Association of Wyoming Pres. Bruce Hinchey said he supports an extended comment period (OGJ Online, Dec. 12, 2011).

Doug Hock, an Encana spokesman in Denver, told OGJ on Jan. 10 that Encana still has yet to receive some information it requested last year under a series of Freedom of Information Act requests. Hock said Encana needs that information to make an informed comment to the EPA.

Encana wants EPA to release more data it collected in its sampling of the Pavillion groundwater such as “the materials used in drilling, completion, development, and sampling” of two water monitoring wells.

Another issue is that Encana wants EPA to clarify the intention of the comment period. Hock and Schopp said a Dec. 14, 2011, Federal Register notice outlining the comment period “was not sufficiently clear on the topics and questions” that are expected to be covered.

Encana acquired Pavillion field assets in 2004 and used fracing in some completions although Hock said Encana has done no fracing there since 2007.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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