Ft. Worth, Texas. 2010. The Environmental Protection Agency goes over the head of state regulators and agencies to issue an emergency order suspending the drilling operations of Range Resources based on reports that linked methane- and benzene-contaminated water directly to the industry giant. EPA administer Al Armendariz leads the charge.
Fast forward one year. The EPA rescinds the mandate and all litigation with no public explanation in March. Armendariz resigns in April.
Contrary to the common belief that the EPA did not have enough evidence, recent reports from The Associated Press show that the EPA had hard scientific evidence against Range but folded under the threat that Range would not cooperate with a national hydraulic fracturing study concerning methane migration.
A research geochemist with the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute at the University of Wyoming at the time, Geoffrey Thyne, had directed an independent study analyzing 32 wells in Texas. Through isotopic analysis, Thyne claimed that methane migration could be traced back to the natural gas operations of Range Resource.
Thyne’s study was peer-reviewed by Robert Jackson, professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University and coauthor of the “Duke Study.” Jackson confirmed that fracking operations by Range Resources were a “probable” source of methane migration.
The EPA ignored the study.
Reporting for Energy Wire, Mike Soraghan reported that more than 1,000 pages of emails in 2011 link the withdrawal of litigation against Range to former Gov. Ed Rendell’s actions on behalf of Range Resources. Acting as a liaison, Rendell “proposed certain terms” to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in March 2011, thereby precipitating the ever-increasing compliance of EPA officials to negotiate a settlement.
Rendell the Oil and Gas Lobbyist was not born in day, though.
During his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, he received $200,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas Industry, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics.
It was not a big secret that Rendell was the “industry’s best ally,” but three of his former aides left while he was still governor to pursue careers as industry lobbyists.
Significant to how Rendell became a liaison to Range Resources was his former aide, Kenneth Scott Roy, who served as chief liaison between the governor’s office and the industry. Roy became the vice president of regulations and government Affairs for— you guessed it—Range Resources.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a former Pennsylvania governor found a cushy position in the oil and gas industry post-politics. Tom Ridge served as strategic adviser for the Marcellus Shale Coalition from 2010 to 2011, receiving $900,000 in compensation.
How much did Rendell get for intervening on behalf of Range?
So, did Roy solicit the political muscle of Rendell to mitigate potentially damaging litigation against Range Resources at the expense the residents of Ft. Worth? Or did Rendell convince the EPA that their case was soft and they should drop it so that Range would participate in the national methane study?
And why did Armendariz resign?
What do you say, Governor?