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Tribes to join EPA for more Pavillion testing

Mar 15, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes are partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state to conduct further groundwater testing east of Pavillion.

The groups announced their collaboration in a joint statement issued March 8.

"Together with the Tribes, the EPA and the State will convene a group of stakeholders and experts to develop and carry out a plan for further investigation of the Pavillion gas field to identify potential risks to drinking water, including possible sources and pathways for the migration of contaminants," according to the statement.

"Additional research will be conducted collaboratively using the highest scientific standards and will be subjected to independent peer review," the statement reads.

The partnership follows ongoing debate about the federal agency's study results released in December that pointed to a likely link between pollutants in water and the practice of extracting oil and gas from the ground, a process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Because of the collaboration, the EPA is postponing its planned testing process for the Pavillion area monitoring well results.

The EPA, the state of Wyoming and the tribes "recognize that further sampling of the deep monitoring wells drilled for the Agency's groundwater study is important to clarify questions about the initial monitoring results," according to the statement.

The partnership also involves the U.S. Geological Survey "to complete this sampling as soon as possible" and the groups will collaborate "in designing the sampling methodology, the quality assurance plan, and other features of the next phase of testing," according to the statement.

"In order to ensure that the results of this next phase of testing are available for the peer review process, to which the Agency has committed, the EPA has agreed to delay convening the peer review panel on the draft Pavillion report until a report containing the USGS data is publicly available," the statement reads.

In the meantime, EPA's draft report remains open to public comment.

Dean Goggles, executive director of the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission, said his agency will be part of the technical team for the study.

The Joint Business Council is spearheading the efforts of the tribes, Goggles said, adding the commission's work has yet to be determined.

"We've got to meet with everybody first. Nothing has been determined yet. We're going to find out," Goggles said.

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