Pavillion, Wyoming has been a star in the fractivist sky for some time. It made a feature-performer out of Gasland hero John Fenton, but the star has fallen.

The Wyoming County Department of Environmental Quality has studied Pavillion, the site of one of the greatest of fractivist myths, for six long years and just concluded, for the second time, that natural gas development is not responsible for groundwater issues in that community. A final report titled Final Pavilion, Wyoming Gas Field Domestic Water Wells Report on Recommendations for Further Investigation was recently released this week. It’s the end of the road for anyone taking John Fenton, Josh Fox or Desmog Blog seriously.

Here’s what Desmog Blog, an on-line public founded by a convicted felon, published slightly some four years, based on input from Gasland and Grassroots Solution performer, John Fenton:

John Fenton, of Pavillion, WY, described his sense of hope when EPA first arrived to conduct tests on the drinking water in his hometown.

“One of the biggest things for us is that we tried for years and years and years to get the state of Wyoming to come and listen to the problems that we were having and were constantly met by excuses of not having money or manpower or scientific knowledge. So therefore when we actually got EPA to agree to come in and do a groundwater study, we were very excited that we got some knowledge and some people that were trained to specifically look at the issues that we were dealing with.”

But in 2013, the EPA abandoned its investigation into the water contamination in Pavillion. “The EPA folded,” Mr. Fenton said.

He criticized the draft assessment for failing to include the type of new research that EPA had originally planned to conduct. When the draft’s conclusions after years of research was first published, those who hoped that the new report would help resolve questions swirling around fracking were largely disappointed, with scientists describing the EPA’s approach as largely a review of the current literature. Plans to conduct tests at a site before and after fracking had been slashed from EPA’s study, and EPA also heavily relied on data that was self-reported by drillers.

“This has to be an on the ground study,” Mr. Fenton told the panel. “This has to be more inclusive with the people who are directly impacted, not just the people who are making profit from this.”

Well, EPA may not have done the study Fenton wanted, but it did a very thorough job and the Wyoming County Department of Environmental Quality just spent six years conducting an exhaustive study of Pavillion specifically and here’s what it found, courtesy of Energy In Depth (see also this).

Here are the top three things to know from WDEQ’s analysis of more than 11,000 water samples in its 2016 report and an additional 3,650-plus in the Final Report:

Fact #1: Methane in domestic water wells is not from oil and natural gas development.

Further, after years of investigating groundwater in the region, WDEQ determined that methane detected in domestic water wells was not from oil and natural gas development:

“Gas in the upper Wind River Formation appears to have originated mainly from upward migration from deeper commercial gas-bearing zones and evidence suggests that upward gas seepage (or gas charging of shallow sands) was happening naturally before gas well development . . .[t]he general chemical characteristics (major cations and anions) of the groundwater from the water-supply wells . . . are consistent with those reported for the Wind River Formation across the Wind River Basin.” (emphasis added)

Fact #2: Inorganic compounds detected above drinking water standards are naturally occurring.

Analysis of samples taken from 13 water wells in 2014, 2017, and 2018, found:

“Inorganic compounds that were found over applicable drinking water standards are generally associated with naturally occurring salts, metals and radionuclides.”

“[N]o organic compounds were identified at concentrations exceeding applicable drinking water standards.” (emphasis added)

Fact #3: Fracking fluid did not migrate into the water.

In a blow to environmental activists who have spent years trying to push the narrative that fracking was the cause of groundwater issues in the community, WDEQ clearly dispels this myth:

“Evidence does not indicate that hydraulic fracturing fluids have risen to shallow depths utilized by water-supply wells. Also, based on an evaluation of hydraulic fracturing history, and methods used in the Pavillion Gas Field, it is unlikely that hydraulic fracturing has caused any impacts to the water-supply wells.” (emphasis added)


Activists have tried for years to keep the Pavillion narrative alive as an example of oil and natural gas contamination. But numerous investigations from state and federal regulators spanning several years continue to show these claims lack merit.

WDEQ’s Final Report further solidifies what the agency said in 2016: Oil and natural gas activities are not responsible for groundwater quality in Pavillion. And with this, it appears the book is finally closed on the palatability investigation in the region.

I can’t improve on that. But, I can note this is the falling from the sky of one of the greatest of fractivist myths. The truth always emerges in the end and the Pavillion claims of Fenton, Fox and other fractivists are now mere fallen stars, briefly bright but burned up in an atmosphere of facts.

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