Chesapeake’s Environmental Assessment of Well Blowout is Attained Through a Conflict of Interest
In an October 15, 2011 news release, Chesapeake Energy stated “the public was never in danger ” when a well blowout, also called a well control incident, resulted in the uncontrolled release of toxic hydraulic fracturing fluids in Leroy Township, Pennsylvania in April 2011.
Podcast: Chesapeake Energy Bradford County Blowout
However, the spill, which occurred during fracking, prompted authorities to ask seven families to evacuate the area, as reported by Patriot-News and other sources.
Chesapeake’s news release called the assessment of soil, sediment, and shallow groundwater — where in the spill occurred — an “independent report.” But the company that conducted the environmental assessment, SAIC, shares a clear conflict of interest with Chesapeake.
Louis A. Simpson is on the board of directors for both SAIC and Chesapeake. The Public Herald contacted both the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to learn more about why this report had been validated as independent. But the DEP has not returned phone calls or emails about the topic, and the EPA has asked for the questions to be submitted through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Chesapeake’s news release, titled “Independent Report on Atgas Incident Finds No Impact on Local Water Wells” misleads the public and company shareholders by failing to acknowledge that residential water supplies were, in fact, impacted. It stated, “None of the nearby private water wells was impacted by the event.” However, in a weekly status report submitted to DEP September 7, 2011, the company stated that a “reverse osmosis system” was installed by SAIC at one residential well and that “the bottom fracture zone of the …water well was sealed.” More reports about the impact of the blowout were addressed in Public Herald’s previous article.
In contrast to SAIC’s findings for Chesapeake, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, tested seven residential drinking water wells in the area near the Bradford County blow-out and concluded that one well was contaminated by gas drilling activity, showing a “10-fold increase in methane and various salts, compared with samples taken in July 2010, before natural gas drilling began at the site.”
The report states that more information is needed to determine if contamination was caused by the blowout or other gas drilling activity.
SAIC reports indicated that their water well tests matched baseline data in the final report to the DEP.
SAIC also works closely with “U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. Government civil agencies and selected commercial markets” to develop “weapons and support systems” and “collect and disseminate information” with projects like CHIRP, that “utilizes a telescope that can view a quarter of the Earth” from commercial spacecraft with a “wide-field-of-view infrared staring system”, according to SAIC’s 2011 Annual Report.
Chesapeake Water Well Impact Report to DEP