The Railroad Commission of Texas (Commission) has issued its much anticipated Proposal for Decision and Proposed Order following a hearing on EPA’s claims that Range Production Company’s fracking operations contaminated private drinking water wells in the Fort Worth, Texas area. The Commission concluded that any contamination was due to natural migration from the much closer Strawn geologic formation and not Range’s nearby natural gas wells. Despite having received notice, EPA did not send any representatives to the January Commission hearing, nor present any substantiating or rebuttal evidence. The Commission will decide whether to issue a final order on March 22.

Notable highlights from the report and proposed order include:

“The examiners find that Range’s evidence clearly demonstrates that its drilling and operations of the Teal and Butler wells have not contributed to contamination of any domestic water wells. The examiners further find that the most likely source of gas in the Lipsky well and other domestic water wells in the area is the shallow Strawn formation.

Range also presented extensive microseismic data to demonstrate that hydraulic fracturing has not caused communication between the Barnett Shale and Cetaceous aquifers in the area. . . . Given that the separation between the Barnett Shale and the aquifer is about 5,000 feet, it is evidence that hydraulic fracturing of the Barnett Shale has not caused any communication with the aquifer.

When the appropriate parameters are used in a fingerprinting study, it is clear that the gas produced from the water wells is from [the Strawn formation] which is significantly different in composition than the Barnett Shale gas.

It is accordingly ORDERED that production from the [Butler and Teal wells] operated by Range Production Company, shall be allowed to continue as Range Production Company has established that the operations of the wells have not caused or contributed, and are not causing or contributing to contamination of any domestic water wells.